16 December 2013

Race Report: 2013 Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run

I have a history with this race. I first ran PMETR in 2009, finishing in 263rd place overall. I've improved over the years, even winning my AG last year while finishing 5th overall female, and the goal of winning the women's overall race began to creep into my mind. But, being a multi-sport athlete, winning single-sport events is usually reserved for the "real" runners or the "real" bikers. Off-road mutts like me specialize in being sorta-good at several things, and it's usually only at adventure races that I find myself in the hunt for the podium. But the race conditions for the 2013 edition of PMETR were a perfect storm for my skill set. Literally. The night before the race, the St. Louis area got dumped on, first with rain and then 4-10 inches of snow. Pere Marquette got about 8" of the sticky white stuff and that made the drive up to the race very challenging.
The drive up to Pere Marquette State Park.
Photo by SuperKate!
Fortunately, I left St. Louis with plenty of time to spare and with two awesome race buddies, Irwin and Megan. We all stayed calm while the snow drifts threatened to sling my little car right off the road! We finally parked at the lodge about 8:45am, still with plenty of time to get our bibs and change clothes and I even squeezed in a warm-up jog in my new screw shoes. I saw my orienteering friend Eric near the start line and we compared footwear notes and then pretty soon it was time to line up. I was seeded in Wave 3 (actually the fourth wave to start, there is a Wave 0) with a bunch of speedy women. I was super excited to be toeing the line with them, including the girl that has out-sprinted me at the finish line the past TWO YEARS IN A ROW...Katie S. It didn't bug me so much then because she was in a different age group, but this year we were both in F25-29 so I knew I had to run hard. Also I knew Megan has been rocking her training lately and was in a later wave - pressure was on!
Start! Photo by Fleet Feet STL.
The starter counts us down and we are off! I am completely content to let everyone else in my wave lead out and pack down the snowy trail for me, so I just casually jog off the line and am pretty much the last of the group to hit the singletrack. The pace feels easy. Really easy. But we have a big nasty climb coming up so just jog along and wait for it to get hard. Except...it doesn't. About a third of the way up the first hill, I'm still in the back of the conga line with my legs feeling amazing. I get scared that the lead women are going to fly off the front of our pack and I won't see them again, so I start passing people. It takes extra energy to run on the side of the packed-in singletrack, and I'm scared of burning too many matches. But, I know I have to take the chance now to stay in contact with the leaders.
Debbie leading into the first aid station.
Photo by Joanne Fricke.
About two thirds of the way up the first climb, I catch up with PMETR legend Debbie K. She's won Master's and Overall titles here MULTIPLE times, so I'm honored to sit in and run her pace up the rest of the hill. We chat a little bit and almost immediately she asks how old I am, and I get her hint, replying "I'm 29...NOT Master's!" She also tells me that she doesn't think there are any more women up ahead. Sweet! Debbie is awesome at running uphill and asking guys to move out of our way. She blazes the trail and the whole time I am thinking the effort is perfect - hard but not crazy. And, I notice her shoes are slipping here and there on the packed snow. Mine are rock solid, so it gives me a confidence boost that I am saving energy. There are a few small downhills at the top of the first climb, and I run those with her too, to try and plan my next move.
Photo by Robin Rongey.
The course route makes its first big descent about 1.5 miles in, and it's here that I try to break away from Debbie. I love running downhill, and I know it's my strength. So I just let gravity do its thing and I fly down the soft pillowy trail. Descending is just a dream - the trail is packed in hard enough to be predictable footing, my screw shoes are giving me great traction, and the surrounding unpacked snow lessens the chance of a injury if I did crash. At the bottom of the first big descent, I take a quick peek backwards and don't see anyone. Awesome. Then I focus on running the second quarter really strong - there aren't any huge ups or downs in this part of the course but plenty of small little rollers that require a lot of mental focus. I roll through the second aid station to cheers of "First lady!" and that gives me a huge boost - this is really happening, I'm leading at PMETR! But my thoughts drift back to Megan in a chasing wave and know that I have to keep running hard.
Photo by Robin Rongey.
The last half of the course seems to take forever. Last year, the mile posts flew by and I was done before I knew what even happened. This year, it seems that I've run for hours and am still only on Mile 4. I'm sure it's the stress of being chased, so I try to think of other things. I cycle through a lot of mental imagery, most of it being adventure race-related since the World Champs just concluded in Costa Rica. Teams went through some incredible challenges and I was so impressed with the athleticism and mental strength they showed. There is one picture that sticks in my head, it's of Mimi Guillot, she is the girl on World Champion Team Thule. Teams had to carry their whitewater raft for the last 500m or so of the 800km race, and the task nearly broke the exhausted Team Thule. A photographer got a photo of Mimi carrying the raft, she is in tears but the look of determination is so clear on her face...that's what I tried to channel for a mere 4 miles of running. I can't even bear to post the picture here because 7.8 miles of trail running doesn't even stack up to 800km of adventure racing. So go see for yourself.

About this time I've gotten to the base of the second big climb, and there are 3-4 guys up ahead. I am really excited about this because climbing is not my strength so I plan to use the guys as motivation to keep my pace high. We start going up, and...same thing as the first climb. Their pace is not as fast as my legs want to go. This is completely new territory for me, but I'm going to just roll with it, so I pass the guys in the soft snow and continue climbing. Then there is a big descent where I see a photographer so I quickly wipe the snot off my face and try to look fast. Ha! As I'm running by him I ask if there's anyone behind me...he answers "Nope!". Then the course brings runners across a road very close to the lodge where a big crowd always gathers, it's about Mile 6 (1.8 miles to go). As I approach the road crossing, I get a big cheer, "It's Emily!" and, "First girl!" This encouragement helps me so much - now I'm super inspired to tackle the last big up and the last big down!
Running hard.
Photo by Robin Rongey
The last climb is a doozy with 60-something big stone steps. But my screw shoes eat them up, no slipping at all, and I continue charging through the course. There are two guys ahead of me (neon shirt and camo shirt) so I try and catch them without completely blowing myself up. My hamstrings have started to ache and my quads are getting extremely tender, a sure sign that the effort is high. We make it back to the ridgetop where the course doubles back on itself, and I allow myself to start considering the possibility of winning. One more downhill to let the screw shoes fly! I take one final peek behind me to check if I might get caught in a sprint for the finish...no girls behind me that I can see. So I run the downhill aggressively but not as hard as last year, and I'm able to pass neon shirt! (But camo shirt is way ahead.) Somewhere close to the end my Garmin loses satellite signal so I don't even get stats for the last flat finish sprint! Oh the irony of technology! But I'm super excited to cross the finish line as the first female!

I see Eric and Mike right away at the finish line and they both congratulate me on a good race. My time is about 90 seconds slower than last year, but there is no way I'm going to beat myself up about that with today's conditions AND excellent placement in the field. I plant myself by the clock and count down in 30 second intervals...and after about 2 minutes I am pretty sure that no one from a later wave is going to beat my time. And then, the 2nd chick across the line is MEGAN!!!! I am so thrilled for her great performance! I sort of hug/attack her at the finish in congratulations. Debbie finishes not long after so I get to congratulate her too. Some brilliant running out there!
Me and men's overall winner Brandon Smith!
Photo by Brent Newman.
The rest of the day is spent on a cool-down jog, changing into dry clothes, and saying hi to all of the fine runners that braved the trip up to Pere Marquette State Park. Results take a while to get posted, but when they do, I'm shocked to see myself as 1st female and 18TH PLACE OVERALL! YEAH! The awards ceremony is longer than usual because this is the 25th anniversary of PMETR and there are some special prizes for people who have run every year. Well deserved! Mike waits until very last to announce this year's overall winners. But when he does, I can't stop smiling! This goal had only a sliver of possibility one year ago, but the conditions were right and I felt I ran the perfect race for my fitness and skills. Long live PMETR!

Pin It

12 December 2013

Race Report: 2013 Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr AR

The Bonk Hard Castlewood 8hr Adventure Race was my first ever...EVER...adventure race. In 2009, I was racing some sprint triathlons, some road/trail running races, and playing co-ed indoor soccer. One of my soccer teammates needed a girl for Castlewood, and asked me to join. I didn't even own a mountain bike at the time, but bought one on Craigslist and put in a few training rides on singletrack (which terrified me). Turns out the singletrack in the race was entirely manageable and that year my team (Mid-Rivers Adventure) finished 14th overall. I was hooked! Since 2009, I've raced the CW8 every year - again with 4-person coed Mid-Rivers Adventure in 2010, as a 2-person coed with my IMCdA buddy Mike in 2011 (3rd overall!!), and with a team of adventure racing newbies in 2012.
Sunrise from Race HQ at Wyman Center.
So this year, racing with Alpine Shop, we've had a very, very good season. 9 races. 6 overall wins, including one at Checkpoint Tracker Nationals. We've supported each other through some tough times, both on the race course and off, and I am a better person because of my teammates. And what better way to celebrate that camaraderie by squeezing in one more race to cap off the season! The Castlewood 8hr attracts a really big field because it's close to St. Louis and designed for the beginning adventure racer - the nav is not too challenging, the parks are all ones that we ride/run in all the time, and the race is held completely in the daylight. The race also attracts some heavy hitting teams looking for a knock-down-drag-out RACE, and this year was no exception. We found ourselves toeing the line with 2P male Team Fusion, 4P male Off the Front Racing, 4P coed 34 Down, 4P coed Downhill Bikes Branson/Ridge Runner/Kuat, and more than 50 other teams! Game on!
Only about a third of the bikes at the start line.

Team Alpine Shop was also racing in a new configuration. Two weeks before the race, our regular teammate Doug separated his shoulder in a cyclocross crash, and couldn't race. This seems to be the year of injuries for us (Carrie's knee, my knee, now Doug's shoulder) and we went through a frantic few days trying to find a substitute. Do you know how hard it is to find someone who rides mountain bikes, runs, and paddles, all at a reasonably fast pace, and is a fun person to hang out with, and is available all-day Saturday to race with us? Let me tell you - it's difficult. But thankfully we didn't have to stress too long - local super-stud Mike agreed to race with us after only a few phone and email exchanges. I am always really excited to race with people new to the sport of adventure racing, and I was doubly excited to race with Mike after following him on Strava - dude is FAST!! (side-note: if you are looking to get into adventure racing, but don't have a team, one way to do it is to log your training on some site like Strava or AttackPoint, that lets other teams stalk you (and your fitness) and might garner an invitation.)

Anyway...the four of us met up at our favorite store in St. Louis, of course that would be Alpine Shop, on Friday night for pre-race check-in. We got our maps, got some pizza from Dewey's (also a CW8 tradition for me - 5 races, 5 pre-race meals of Dewey's pizza!), and then headed over to David's studio to plot, eat, and strategize. We did all of this with another Alpine Shop team - Carrie and Yvonne were racing 2P female as Alpine Shop-NNC. It was a fun night and after we got the maps finished up (really, not much to do) then we talked a little bit about gear and headed to our respective homes for final packing and sleeping. Race morning came early and cold - once I got to the Wyman Center my phone was reading 12F. But there were 2 heating buildings to use for changing/TA and after all of the usual pre-race fretting and socializing, the whole herd of adventure racers headed outside for the start.

TREK 1, CPs 1-5, 3k redline, 0:28
1:15k map of Greensfelder. We went 2-4-1-3. Sorry about the crossing out, we marked up this same map later in the race.
We decided to start with CP2 for a couple reasons - we felt that the majority of the field would go to CP3 first since it's easier, and we like to run alone as much as possible. Also, the huge climb to CP3 would be difficult on cold legs - CP2 offered a slightly gentler climb. So once the horn sounded, we take off southbound to CP2. We punch that in the lead, then contour westward to CP4. We drop into the reentrant and....no flag. David panics a little but we fan out and I find the flag just 10m north of where we attacked. Crisis averted! We then take advantage of some trails to CP1 and see our friends on 34 Down coming the other way, WHOA!! There are lots of teams in the area of CP1 and elephant tracks are starting to form in the snowy woods. It's awesome running with the team, Mike has been doing a terrific job off-trail, David's nav is clean, and Jeff is really hustling for the punches. We have a big climb up to CP3 and then some fast descending back to CP5/Race HQ/our bikes. We come back into TA in the lead, but are joined by a bunch of other teams just a few minutes behind. Our transition is really slow - winter racing requires more attention to layers so we all have to adjust a little bit, plus put on winter bike shoes. 

BIKE 1, CPs 6-13, 8.5mi road, 0:45

We race out of Wyman Center on our bikes in what we think is the lead. The roads are not icy so we organize into a towing paceline and ride hard. The next few CPs are just at various road landmarks so the nav isn't hard at all, and there isn't much route choice. We're soon joined by our main rivals, plus a couple other speedy teams. It's really hard to recognize everyone in full winter gear! The bike path into Route 66 State Park is really slippery, so we take a few extra minutes around the turn and lose the main pack. Once in the park, we execute out route choice without any difficulty, catching back up to DBB/RR/Kuat and making it to the canoe put-in in 4th place.

David, Mike, me, and Jeff riding into TA.

PADDLE 1, CPs 14-16, 4mi, 1:31

Me and Mike running back to get the second boat.
Jeff got it for us.
The TA is pure chaos. We have to plot 2 points, load up 4 bikes into 2 boats, get layers adjusted, distribute paddles and PFDs, and start paddling, all on a snowy and slick boat ramp, all while keeping our feet dry. And with all the other teams running around. Jeff and David tend to the maps while Mike and I get started hauling the first load, and then they help us with the second boat. We pile the bikes in the middle of each boat and then shove off into the waters of the Meramec River!

Because the Castlewood 8hr does not allow personal paddles, we adjusted our paddling strategy a little bit. Normally Jeff and David paddle in the back of the boats, but today we are trying me in the back of Jeff's boat, the theory being that Jeff is a stronger continuous motor in front and then I can just steer. We've practiced this once and it went well, so today I'm in charge of keeping the boat between the navigational beacons. Once we start paddling, it takes me a bit to get comfortable - the bikes are sliding around, there is a little riffle to be negotiated, it's stressful! But Jeff talks me through everything and pretty soon we're charting a great course downriver. And then, my hands start to get cold. At first I just deal with it, but as they keep getting colder and colder, I start to whine inform my teammates of my current physical state. It doesn't help that my paddle's shaft is completely covered in ice. I continue whimpering and my hands turn into stumps. I can hardly keep the boat on a good line and finally Jeff turns around, looks me squarely in the eye, and says "We are going to get through this." And then hands me his mittens.
Approaching the take-out!
I quickly take off my lobsters and swap them with Jeff. His mittens are warm and awesome and pretty soon my hands start coming back to life. We've lost some time on the top 3 teams, but we haven't been caught by anyone, either, so we continue to make our way through this frigid 4-mile paddle. Finally the take-out appears, and the volunteers have built a huge bonfire to welcome us. Wow!! Thanks!! We have a gear check here and it takes a while for us to get everything together, plus carry the boats up to the trucks, plus get our bikes sorted. Finally, we're through and then onto the bikes!
Jackie and Suzanne, awesome volunteers!!!
BIKE 2A, CPs 17-23, 6.5mi trail, 1:15
SURPRISE TREK 2, CPs 40-42, 1.5mi, 0:13

BIKE 2B, CPs 24-27, 6.5mi road,  0:24
We charge out onto the trails of West Castlewood, still in 4th place overall. We have some route choice here so we go get CP17 first and then over to the Blue Ribbon (aka Cedar Bluff) singletrack loop. We're instructed to ride this counter-clockwise and collect 3 unmapped CPs along the way. We all are making good progress on the snowy singletrack and now that my hands are warmed up, it's really fun. We start sharing bottles here too, drinking from whomever's is least frozen at the moment. Once we pop out of Blue Ribbon, we get the rest of the West Castlewood CPs on the trail and then motor westbound onto the Al Foster. We all work together to keep our team speed high through the tire-sucking snow. We have one CP left on the trail before hitting the roads back into HQ, and when it comes into view there is a crowd of people. What's this?

CP20, before the other teams got there.
Turns out that we have a surprise trekking section! Race volunteers hand us instructions to trek on the newly-built (thanks, GORC!) and unmapped Bluffview trail, collecting 3 CPs on the way. None of us have brought our trekking shoes, but we probably wouldn't have taken the time to change anyway. In fact, we've caught DBB/RR/Kuat because they are changing shoes. We run onto Bluffview and pretty soon are greeted by Fusion and Off The Front, locked in a battle of all-boy teams. Now we know the gap to 1st place is about 10 minutes - ouch! So we sprint along the Bluffview trail, working really hard to stay upright (hard to do in winter bike shoes on snowy, off-camber singletrack)! We get all three CPs with DBB/RR/Kuat on our tails and then run back to our bikes, pretty much a straight shot. The volunteers confirm that we're 1st coed, 3rd overall so we continue pushing hard.
Running back to our bikes.
Let's go! Jeff, me, Mike, David.
We have a little bit more Al Foster to ride, and then it's onto roads. We grab CP25 which is manned by Jeff's dad (hi Leonard and Joyce!!!) and then cross Hwy 109. That road is really busy, but Bonk Hard has organized a police car to be at the intersection, and when we approach he turns on his flashers and waves us through. So awesome! Then Mike tows us all up Alt Road and then we bomb the descent back into Wyman Center.

TREK 3, CPs 28-35, 6k redline, 1:18

I added the orange lines to show our order, we went clockwise.
We roll into TA still in 3rd, but we only see one of the teams still plotting the final trek. Crap...that means that Fusion likely has a big lead. But, we know we are fast on foot so we focus on an efficient transition. Well, maybe not entirely efficient because I use a real bathroom (who does that in an adventure race?!). Jeff and I plot the remaining 8 points and then David route plans while we finish changing shoes. Once we have a plan, we charge out of TA on a mission: HAUL ASS.

As we make the climb up to CP34 (same as CP3 from this morning), I remind the boys that this is the last trek of our adventure racing season and we've got to make it count. Once we punch CP30, we have a good bit of trail to run and David and Mike lead out at an incredibly fast pace - Jeff and I can barely keep up. We don't see anyone in the woods ahead of us, but these points are rogaine-style (we can get them in any order) so there's no guarantees that we'll see the lead teams anyway. So we just run really, really hard. David's nav is perfect, taking terrific routes and then spiking each control on the money. The climb up to CP31 is really hard, and as we're leaving the area we see Off The Front just getting to the control. Panic! We've got to get out of their sight before they can potentially follow us to CP32. So we grunt up the huge snowy climb, run the little out-n-back to CP32, and then throw ourselves downhill to CP33. This late-race push seems to work, we can't see anyone else behind us now (of course, maybe they went the opposite direction anyway?). We punch CP35 and then just have a long run back to the finish with 1 huge climb and 1 smaller one. David narrates as we all climb as hard as we can. Finally, we crest the last ridge and tumble downhill back to the finish line. We see our friends Tiny Trail Ninjas (former Bonk Hard owners Jason and Laura) and they cheer us on, suggesting that we might be first back. Could it be possible?
Finish line!
We run under the Bonk Hard finish line arch, scanning the TA for other teams. We don't see Fusion, Off The Front, or DBB/RR/Kuat. Could we have won? We hand our passport into race directors Gary and Ellen and wait for the verdict.
YES!!! WE DID IT!!! We are so, so happy and proud of this race! We came to the Castlewood 8hr looking for a throw-down and were stoked to come from behind to take the overall victory. The all-boy teams were tough to beat, but it turns out they both mis-plotted 1 CP on the final trek, opening the door for us to keep our nav clean and run fast.
Team Alpine Shop: me, Mike, David, Jeff.
We spend the rest of the day hanging out at Race HQ, eating pizza, swapping stories, picking burrs out of our race clothes, and cheering other racers on. The adventure race community is full of exceptional people and it's great to hang out with all of them in one day. A HUGE thank-you goes out to Alpine Shop for sponsoring the team and this race. They are dedicated to the outdoor community in St. Louis and the entire Midwest and we are really, really grateful for their support!

Sneat's photos: https://www.facebook.com/skiefner/posts/10201153402818970 
SuperKate: http://super-kate.com/2013/12/08/racing-in-a-winter-wonderland-2013-castlewood-8-hour/
BORED's photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1443274859229050.1073741844.1422175918005611&type=1
BORED: http://ballsoutracing.blogspot.com/2013/12/frozen-hell-2013-bonkhard-castlewood-8.html

Pin It

06 December 2013


Seagate's relentless track up to the highest point in Costa Rica - Mt. Chirripo.
Race fans! We are smack in the middle of the Adventure Racing World Championships being held in Costa Rica. The course is a monster. Example: Stage 4, affectionately dubbed "The Mangrove Monster" has taken some teams MORE THAN 40 HOURS to complete. And after that they still aren't even at the third-way point in the race yet. Teams started racing on the afternoon of Monday, 2-December and are just now starting to depart "mid-camp", a mandatory 4-hour stop roughly near the middle of the course. The winners should finish on Sunday or Monday after 6-7 grueling days of racing. It's a tense battle between some of the toughest endurance athletes in the world. And, lucky for us, the race coverage is unreal. Between the official race tracking map, and the Attackpoint discussion thread, and Breathe Magazine's excellent flashblog, we can track the teams' every move. It is an exciting time for adventure racing and I've been learning a lot from the commentary on AP and Breathe. If you're a fan of the sport, you owe it to yourself to check in on the race's progress from time to time. And, cheer for American teams...Tecnu (currently in 4th place!!!!), Bones (currently in 9th!!), Dark Horse, GearJunkies/Yogaslackers, Leki 50, and Committed.

Pin It

18 November 2013

Pacing the OT100: Ultramarathon Birth Control

It happened, like most things since 2005 tend to do, because of a Facebook post. My friend Jim advertised his recent registration for the Ozark Trail 100, a one hundred mile, point-to-point, run on you guessed it, the Ozark Trail. Ever since I got into endurance events a few years ago, I have secretly dreamed about being an ultramarathon pacer. I don't know why, but I think it's related to why I dislike climbing but love belaying. I've always been more attracted to playing the supporting instead of starring role, and getting the chance to support someone's 100-mile dream was extremely appealing. But just like I'm choosy about my AR teammates, I wanted to be choosy about anyone I paced. And despite not really ever training together, I knew Jim would be a great person to pace for - fit, level-headed, and most importantly, DETERMINED. I can't stress that last word enough. I know very little about the mystical world of ultrarunning, but I do know that the biggest trick to any endurance event is getting your mind right. And I could sense through the magical power of the interwebz that Jim's mind was right. Let's do this!
Now, before I get too far into this post, I want to acknowledge that this isn't exactly my story to tell. First and foremost this is Jim's story, and I was only a character for the 29-odd miles I paced him. I do want to share my observations on the weekend because I learned SO MUCH, but I also want to preface that with the understanding that Jim went through 10 times more pain and suffering than I did. So before you read any further, go read his exceptionally well-written race report!

I have really only hung out with Jim a few times, mostly at bike races, so I felt it was important for me to check in with him at the pre-race meeting on Friday night. There was nothing tangible that he needed help with, I just didn't want the first time we met up to be 68.4 miles into his race. So I drove down to Bass after work, caught the last part of the pre-race meeting, and then found Jim with his wife Sara and son Jake. The four of us chatted a little bit, mostly figuring out some vehicle logistics, and Jim was super laid-back and calm. I think he and I are similar in that we put a lot of effort into race research and preparation so when the time comes to actually race, there is no reason to be frantic or nervous. Just wake up and press play. Jim and his family would be staying in a hotel closer to the start line so I said good night to them and then drove over to Berryman Campground for some free camping. The night was beautiful and I slept really well - almost 12 hours!
Sammy you're ruining my selfie!!
The following morning was also wonderful. I didn't have to be anywhere until 12noon so I made breakfast and drank my coffee while pouring over the race logistics. I made myself a little cheat sheet of course details. I've never paced anyone before, but I just thought about what information I would like to know if I was on the point of exhaustion, and then wrote that stuff down. Then I looked at the race maps to make sure I knew where the course went - I've trained and raced a lot in this area but didn't want to confuse this course with any past memories. Then I was visited by the resident canine of Berryman Campground...Sammy. She's a gorgeous bloodhound that lives right down the road and I thought I had heard her snuffling around during the night. She is such a sweet dog and it was awesome to hang out with her for a little bit before her owners drove through and picked her up to go hunting. There were some other people in the campground, and they turned out to be volunteers setting up the aid station (mile 81.3). So I chatted with them and got updates on the race from the HAM radio guy Steve. There were also some mountain bikers cruising through that I knew so it was like social hour! After a while I looked at my watch and realized I had to leave RIGHT NOW to make it back to Bass on time. Bye everyone!
Jamie and the portapotty. We sat here for a while. It did not smell.
At Bass I met up with Jamie, who was Jim's other pacer. We drove down to the Brooks Creek aid station (mile 43.5) where Jamie would start running with Jim. It was a really fun drive because I'd not really met Jamie before either, just raced against him on bikes and in AR, so it was good to meet the man behind the beard. Before the weekend, I was pretty sure Jamie was awesome, but now I am entirely convinced! Once at Brooks Creek, we found Sara and Jake and just hung out for a few hours waiting for Jim to come through. It was so cool to see the lead runners. This was another reason I really wanted to pace at an ultra - I just wanted to stare at observe the runners. What shoes were they wearing? Packs? Hydration strategies? Clothes? Calories? All of these things are important to me in adventure racing and anytime I can view them from another perspective I love it. Then Jim came in and we got him through the aid station really quickly - sock change, new bottles, up and out!

Another thing that's awesome about ultras are the aid stations. We don't get aid stations in adventure racing, and my world was ROCKED when I saw the spread at the OT100. I'm sure this is standard fare for ultras but still, amazing. Fruit, chips, cookies, candy, several different kinds of each. And hot soup, coffee, hot chocolate! And, at Brooks Creek they were making grilled cheese sandwiches. These took a little longer to prepare so Jim ordered one and then started hiking up the trail. Jamie waited for it to be finished and then took off to start their next 25-mile leg. There were a few more aid stations in there but they didn't have crew access so Sara, Jake and I drove to Hazel Creek at mile 68.4.

Once we got to Hazel Creek, we had several hours to kill. I napped a little, hung out at the fire, chatted with the HAM guys, tried to eat food but not too much. What do you eat when you're getting to do a marathon at an unknown starting time at an unknown pace? I snacked on some bread, some jerky, and an apple. Once runners started coming through it was dark, and I hovered around the gear bags, watching everyone. I had my CAMP 10L vest already packed and wow, compared to everyone else's stuff, it was super heavy. I had a lot of unknowns when it came to time in between aid stations so I played it conservative with a lot of water. And I didn't know if pacers were allowed to eat from the aid stations so I brought all of my own calories. In hindsight, I could have gone with about 0.5L water and 500 calories. But once the pack was on my back it was super light anyway. And then, after lots of waiting, Jamie and Jim came storming in! Honestly, I freaked out a little bit. We had been chill for so many hours and then all of a sudden it was TIME TO START THIS PACING THING THAT I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE! Ah! But Jim had a few things to accomplish at the aid station so I hurriedly put myself together and then...we were off!

We started jogging out of Hazel Creek with me in front. Jim used the first couple miles to update me on his condition, his pace, what reminders he wanted, etc. He said that the last 25 miles with Jamie had been really strong and he was feeling good. So I focused on setting a pace on the stronger side of "all-day" which means fast-hiking the uphills and shuffling everything else. I had a Stella 300 on my head so I was able to really light up the singletrack. The first section had a lot of gravel road crossings which I thought would be useful landmarks but they all sort of ran together and we didn't need them for motivation anyway.

The great thing about pacing someone you don't know all that well is there are lots of things to talk about. And I think Jim and I covered them all - we talked a lot. I did tell him at the beginning to just shut me up if I got obnoxiously cheerful (I tend to do that, and given the mileage imbalance between us, I didn't want to be annoying). I thought Jim was moving pretty well and in no time we were at my first aid station - Pigeon Roost at mile 75.9 (the one with the snowman). I had figured out by then that I was allowed to eat aid station food so once I got Jim's bottles sorted and calories met (soup and coffee), I got myself some potato soup and hot chocolate. It was awesome! Jim sat down and I wasn't quite sure if I should hustle him through or let him relax. I shouldn't have worried because after a few minutes he stood up and marched out of the aid station. I hurried after him, trying to slurp down my hot chocolate before we passed the last garbage bag. We deposited our trash and then got set for a short (5.5mi) leg into Berryman Campground.

In my mind, this is where Jim started to struggle (he said he was hurting before Pigeon Roost but I couldn't tell). There were two other runners, one of whom had a pacer, that left the aid station near us and we got caught up with trying to get ahead of them. I was happy to push the pace and show everyone how strong Jim was. We had only been running together for a few hours but I knew he was going to do really well. We got ahead of the crowd (yes, in ultrarunning, 3 other people is a crowd) and then Jim's stomach revolted. He felt sick and couldn't jog anymore. We let the other runners by and after a little bit, Jim felt like puking. I've had adventure race teammates throw up before and it's usually a good thing so I encouraged him to go for it. And he did! Loudly! It reminded me of those yelling goats and I had to smile. I knew he was feeling horrible but I tried to explain that puking is no big deal and it's kind of awesome to have a scream-puking style like his. So after a few minutes we were able to continue on down the trail and he was feeling a tiny bit better. Despite the extreme pain I knew he was feeling, I wanted to help make sure his experience was enjoyable so we spent some time looking at the stars, and at a small (screech?) owl who landed near the trail. Eventually we came to a section of the OT that I had raced (albeit, in the opposite direction) on my mountain bike just the weekend before so I was able to give Jim some landmarks until the next aid station. We had a big downhill, then some flats, then a sand pit, then a creek crossing, then a highway crossing, then a long climb up into Berryman Campground. I was starting to get really worried about Jim's lack of calorie consumption and I suggested that he take as much time as he needed at the aid station to be able to eat again. My Alpine Shop teammate Jeff ran this race a few years ago and had to spend 40 minutes at an aid station doing the exact same thing. I knew Jim didn't like stopping at aid stations, but he didn't really have any fuel in him at that point so it was absolutely necessary to take care of that before continuing the race. Luckily, Jim agreed with me so once we saw the lights of the campground, we enacted our plan.

Crews were allowed at Berryman Campground (mile 81.3) so only a few minutes after arriving, we were swarmed by Sara, Jake, and Jamie. They helped Jim get into warmer clothes while I started calling out aid station foods, hoping that something would sound good to Jim. He decided to try some hot chocolate and noodles which actually stayed down. I was encouraged. Once he was eating, I snacked, changed my headlamp battery, put handwarmers in my gloves, and put on another long sleeve shirt. The aid station volunteers had pierogis which were really delicious. It didn't seem like very long before Jim was feeling strong again, so we got ready to leave (looking at the garmin file, we spent 30 minutes there, but honestly it didn't feel like that long). Walking out of Berryman Campground was heartbreaking for me - Jim did not look good. I can't really explain it, but it just pained me to see a really strong athlete hurting so much. In the half-marathon or so between Hazel Creek and Berryman Campground, I felt we'd gone from "Facebook friends" to genuine friends and it's always hard to watch my friends struggle. I knew this next section would be difficult so I put all of my focus into getting Jim through it.

The next section was 8.8 miles of singletrack where the Ozark Trail and Berryman Trail run together. I have ridden this trail several times, so I knew we were in for a long, tough, dark, cold section. We were hiking most of this and I was really glad that I was there for Jim - he was stumbling more than usual and had trouble following the trail in a few spots. It would have been easy for him to hike right off the trail and not even realize it! I knew this was just fatigue, and probably normal for someone who has covered 80+ miles on foot, so I just tried to be as encouraging as possible. I fought the sleep monsters a little bit too but the chilly temps and my supply of BuzzBites kept me alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic. I kept reminding Jim that we were in the "crux pitch" of the entire race right at that moment - one of the longest segments, in the darkest part of the night, in the coldest temperatures, with the most fatigue and soreness - and it was normal to feel horrible. In his race report, Jim says that I saw him at his worst, which is true, and it hurt me to see my new friend suffering so much. But I also saw him at his best - fiercely refusing to give up. He even cracked a joke that he was going to quit at the next aid station. I kind of flipped out on him, maybe even yelling a little that quitting is not an option, but he laughed and then I realized he was kidding. Then I knew he was going to make it. We kept on putting one foot in front of the other and I got a first-row seat on what it means to be tough.

Finally, finally, we started to see lights on the next ridge ahead of us, and they turned out to be the Billy's Branch aid station at mile 90.1! Jim and I decided to repeat the sit-blankets-eat routine that had helped so much at Berryman Campground. I got him set up with hot chocolate, noodles, pretzels, and saltines, and then inhaled a bunch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. YUM. While we were nestled in the warmth of the aid station, 2 other runners came into the tent and Jim started to get agitated. As awful as he felt, this was still a race and he was still competing. Time to go! We marched out of Billy's Branch with authority. One more segment to go and then we would trade off pacers for the homestretch. I knew the sun would be rising soon, and how powerful that can be for my motivation. So the second I saw a lightening eastern sky, I pointed it out to Jim. It was like adding gasoline to coals of a fire! All of a sudden Jim was throwing down some fast power hiking and even RUNNING. I had no idea where his strength came from but was delighted to jog with him. On some of the more open reentrants we spotted a runner (Tony) behind us, and Jim was determined to stay ahead of him. We kept the pressure on, all the way into the last aid station - Henpeck Hollow! On the last climb into the aid station, we started talking strategy. Jim didn't want to stop - he wanted to ride the wave of continuous forward momentum all the way to Bass. So I took his vest and bottles with instructions for Jamie. We hiked into the aid station and Jim kept marching as I transferred everything to Jamie. And just like that, the two guys were gone and my pacing duties were over!

Sara and Jake were at the aid station, along with the volunteers and a really nice campfire, so I unwound from my overnight pacing marathon by sharing stories and even getting a cup of soup from the buffet. A few other runners came in, including Tony, but after a bit it was clear there was a gap in the field. So we drove back to Bass to catch Jim's finish. It was a wonderfully sunny morning and so nice to be outside. We watched a few runners come in, and I had a chance to catch up with Jake from the BT Epic who was scouting a new, totally rad course for 2014! And then, we saw the two bearded wonders pop out of the woods and jog into the finish line! It was so cool to see Jim finish what he started out to do. Even though the day didn't go quite as planned, he stuck with it and never gave up. I felt really grateful to be a part of his experience, and to get a peek inside the fascinating world of ultrarunning.
Oh yeah!
After the finish, the five of us sat around the finish tent, eating chili and swapping stories with each other and other runners. The vibe inside the tent was amazing - everyone was exhausted but really satisfied with the monumental achievement of either running 100+ miles themselves, or helping someone else accomplish their dream. I felt extremely lucky to be part of Jim's team. Jamie had already finished the OT100 a few years ago, so of course the boys asked me when my first attempt at the distance would be. And honestly, after seeing what Jim went through, I replied that it will be a long time before I ever take a crack at a 100-mile ultramarathon. Jamie chimed in that pacing for a hundo is sort of like watching a child have a temper tantrum meltdown - it makes you think twice about having kids. Pacing Jim was definitely ultramarathon birth control for me - I don't want to try it anytime soon! I sure do love my long adventure races, but at least that running is broken up by biking and paddling!
That is a sweet buckle! Jim with Race Director Paul!
I can't say enough about how much fun I had pacing Jim at the OT100. The whole weekend gave me a great perspective at the closely related worlds of ultrarunning and adventure racing. I felt like I learned a lot watching the top runners, and was able to give a lot helping Jim through his darkest hours. I went into the weekend not really knowing all of the team members, and came out with 4 new, awesome, amazing friends.

18th place Jim Phillips: http://jimonyourback.blogspot.com/2013/11/ozark-trail-100-mile-endurance-run-2013.html
my Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/93053170
2 articles about ultra pacing I thought were helpful:
2nd place Kyle Curtin: http://nakedfoot.tumblr.com/post/66541664628/kyle-curtin-2013-ozark-100-mile-endurance-run-race
pacer for 3rd place runner: http://minimallyshoddy.com/2013/11/06/pacing-at-the-ot100-in-skora-form-intro-to-ultramarathoning-runreal/
26th place Thomas Gounley: http://thomasgounley.tumblr.com/post/66242466226/race-report-2013-ozark-trail-100

Pin It

16 November 2013

I Plan to Turn 30

Before I share my awesome, scary, brilliant plans for my 30th birthday, I would like to take a minute to say what an amazing year this has been. I've all but wrapped up my 2013 racing season, and it's been the most successful yet. I am totally loving the life I get to live. My family in Minnesota and Michigan are doing well. My friends and teammates in St. Louis are inspiring to train with on a daily basis. My professional life is engaging. My competitors across the country are pushing me to be at my best, even in the adventure racing off-season. Life is good. Attitude of Gratitude. DSLITR. DFTBA.

So thinking about all of that during one of my many easy jogs, I came up with a plan to celebrate my PR for consecutive-days-alive. Last year I turned 29, and ran 29 miles of the Chubb trail with some awesome people, and then we ate some awesome wings. This year, I wanted to stick with the 30 theme, but running 30 miles seemed so...forgive me...last year. What to do, what to do. And then I heard about a 12hr running race being planned by Metro Tri Club, the same fine folks who bring us the joy and pain of PMETR. They are calling it the Aeries February Freeze Tall Timber Trail Run. My birthday is January 29th, and the race starts on January 31st! Tempting, but how could I make running 12 hours significant to turning 30 years old? I thought about it, and then out of thin air my answer appeared...30 HOURS OF BEING 30.


It's simple, but not easy. I will need help. That is where you come in. There are a lot more details to be filled in, but if you are interested you will need to start preparing now, which is why I'm posting this today. Here is the rough plan:

9 hours of biking during the day. I'm not sure if this will be road, gravel, or mountain. But it will be during the day, probably starting at 8am or maybe earlier. Yes I know most people work during the day on Friday but I am going to take the day off to ride my bike. I encourage you to do the same. Consider it a mental health day - Vitamin D Therapy if you will. We will be in the depths of winter at that point so it will be good to get some sunshine on your pasty face.

12 hours of running during the night. The AFFTTTR starts at 9pm and goes until 9am. The course is a loop near the Aerie Winery in Grafton, IL. There is some discussion about whether the loop is 2-miles (blech!!) or 6-miles (yay!!) but regardless it will be a huge challenge. Obviously if they allow pacers I will be inviting as many people as possible to join me. It might be nice to have 1 or 2 or 10 people crew for me, too. Or, best yet, you should sign up yourself! You don't have to run the whole 12 hours if you don't want to, that's the beauty of a looped course. Run a few loops. Take a nap in your car. Run a few more. There is also a team option! Done!

Well we will be running into this morning because the MTC race goes until 9am. Then at 10am they are having a 1-loop-only race, too! So you could do that! No guarantees for my own participation in the 1-looper but if there's cake I will stick around! The rest of the day will be spent sleeping.
Passed OUT after IMCdA '12.

photo of the sun tracking across the sky on 12/21
And then, a final 9 hours of biking during the day to bring the weekend total to 30 hours! Again, not sure if this will be road, gravel, or mountain. Maybe it will be all three. If there are strong feelings one way or the other I will do my best to accommodate them...more people the merrier!
the awesome crew from my birthday run last year!
There are also two other awesome people who have birthdays around mine, Jeff and Peat, so there is a possibility that we might team up with them and add to the party. Whoop! Or maybe you will get back-to-back weekends of excitement! Either way, it's time to start increasing your run and bike miles. Who knows, if the weather is horrible we might even have to have a trainer party in someone's basement. Be prepared for anything! Including 30 wings from TJ's!

Pin It

31 October 2013

Race Report: 2013 BT Epic

Where can I even start? BT Epic 2013 was my fifth weekend of racing in a row. And, despite the word "EPIC" in the race title, it would be my shortest race yet, an ironic fact pointed out to me by Joe at Alpine Shop when I stopped by on Friday for a few last-minute essentials (extra Stan's and CO2). I did this race last year with similar emotions: I'm tired, but the BT Epic is simply too much fun to skip. Last year I met the race directors, Scott and Jake, on a training ride and their stoke completely blew me away. This year, they were outdoing themselves again by providing a race-morning PANCAKE FEED, giving away TEN BIKES at the post-race raffle, plus personally hand-clearing and hand-marking 55 miles of singletrack and road. And to top it all off, I found myself sharing a Friday-night cabin with a superior group of jerks and team mates. The weekend hadn't even started, and I knew it was going to be killer.

I kicked it off by driving with David down to Sullivan and meeting Nico, Gino, and LT at the best Mexican place besides Dos Primos...El Nopal! Seriously, if you're driving on I-44, you can't skip it. Get the fajita burrito, mmmm. Then we drove over to Bass where we were greeted by a very kind census officer. It felt a little bit like the night before baby Jesus' birth because it seemed "In those days Caesar Augustus Stephen Bass issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world Midwestern mountain biking communityThis was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria everAnd everyone went to his own town Bass River Resorts to register. So Joseph those jerks also went up from the town trails of Nazareth Castlerock in Galilee Ballwin to Judea, to Bethlehem Berryman, the town of David Steeleville, because he they belonged to the house and line of David BerrymanHe They went there to register with Mary Maria and Emily, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child no, just...noWhile they were there, the time came for the baby to be born race to start, except not before more census-taking could happen to the riders that drove in that morningand she gave birth to her firstborn, a son (no babies, or future Holy Messiahs, were harmed in the writing of this blog)
Start line at Bass! Dwayne and Trevor in the front row!
All bad attempts at religious humor aside, this year Bass seemed very determined to track down and get paid for every single person that crossed over into their property. Hey, that's the Ozarks for you. We spent Friday night chilling in the cabin, piddling with gear of course, and catching up with Rachel from Bushwhacker! Saturday morning arrived right on schedule, to slightly warmer temperatures than last year! Some people in our cabin elected to partake in the pre-race pancake feed but did not live up to their Friday night claims of pancake-eating-prowess. Shame. I didn't eat any pancakes because I had brought my standard oatmeal and coffee, yum. I rode down to the start area and found the rest of my teammates that had driven in that morning - Dwayne, Trevor, Jim, and Adam! Dwayne gave me my very own Team Noah jersey and I was so excited!! As usual with this crew, mojo was just off the charts to have a good day in the woods. These guys always inspire me to ride my hardest and have a good time doing it. I got the rest of my kit ready and rode around Bass dropping off drop bags and saying hi to people. I was wearing my winter lobsters and Rachel greeted me with "you're not racing in those, are you??". Ha! Truthfully, I had been thinking about it but she snapped me back to reality - no lobsters over 30F! Kit corrected, I lined up with Maria in a field of 350 other racers and got ready to start. 

BASS TO BRAZIL (11 miles, 1:11)
Gun goes off and I start getting passed by what feels like the entire field. I haven't put in any warm-up, and my goal today is to keep my PE low over the first 30 miles, so I just spin at my own pace up the gravel climb into the singletrack. I get into the trail with a good group of people, riding decent lines at a decent pace, and we just hum along the first few miles. Sometime after Henpeck Hollow (the first creek crossing) I find TTM and immediately hop on his wheel. That works great for a bit and then I think I crashed him out on a tight switchback. Sorry Jim! We cross through Harmon Spring (second creek crossing) and then are onto the Berryman Trail proper, the north section. Then I get Dan Dougan on my wheel which is awesome! Sometimes I get stressed out by people riding behind me but Dan is so chill and I know he will be cool with whatever crazy braking I throw his way. We make it through the worst downhill section intact (I always think about my Nana here, saying "be careful!"). The rest of the singletrack is great and I am continuing to ride at what feels like a moderate pace, even though I can see my HR well into the 170s. Tapered much? 

BRAZIL TO BERRYMAN (10 miles, 1:07)
I roll across Highway W at Brazil and suddenly there are people everywhere. Brazil Campground/Creek is a minor aid station with I think just water but it seems there are way too many people stopped. I shout out my number to the volunteers and just keep rolling since I don't need anything. This section is probably the hardest section of the Berryman because the trail doesn't switchback much, it just climbs straight up and over several Ozark ridges. I've ridden it a bunch in the past through so I'm able to check off landmarks while I'm trying to keep PE at a reasonable level. About half-way through this section, I ride up a hill and find a bunch of people crowded around a down rider. Oh no! And it's scary when I see that the rider is Mark, a Kuat rider who kept me company for 40 miles of the Dirty Kanza. I can't not stop. It looks like he's having trouble breathing, and I get really worried. There are two people helping him who sound really knowledgeable (later I found out one was his teammate and the other was an anesthesiologist) so I decide to ride ahead to Berryman Campground and inform the volunteers there. I ride with a guy in red shorts for the rest of the section and finally we pass the off-camber rooty turn that signals the final approach to Berryman Campground. I stop at the volunteer table to relay what information I can about Mark - that he's at least three and a half miles back from the campground. There is a woman there who knows him and who is on top of the situation. Relieved, I find my drop bag, ditch my jacket, add a full bottle of water to my bike, and get the heck out of aid station land.

THE SOUTH LOOP (17 miles, 1:46)
The start of the South Loop was where I went off course last year, so I am extra vigilant in spotting the turn. I shouldn't have worried, because Scott and Jake used extra caution tape this year to mark the shallow Leroy onto the OT. I rip down to Highway 8, cross it, cross the creek, and jog through the never-ending sandpit on the other side. It's actually nice to change positions a little bit. On one of the first grinding hills, I spot my teammate Maria trailside, fiddling with her bike. Oh no! I stop and learn that her chain is stuck between the cassette and the rear wheel. Not good. We both tug on it for a few seconds but it's seriously wedged in there. We mess with the wheel a little bit, it gets better but we need some muscle. Oh look, there are several muscle-y mountain bike studs riding by right now! One of them in a Continental kit stops and helps us free the chain! Hoo-ray! Maria gets her shifting sorted and we both take off. I try to hurry since I know she can seriously shred on the singletrack. 

I catch up with a few guys later on down the trail and we ride in a little line for a while. They eventually ride away from me on some of the downhills. Then, on the flats and climbs, I start seeing a curious site: picnickers. No, not random people out picnicking on the OT, but racers that have decided to take a break, and have a snack while they sit on the side of the trail. There are like four guys in a row doing this, but each separated by a few hundred meters so maybe they decided to stop independently. I joke with each of them as I ride by, and the final guy tells me "there's a girl only about 90 seconds in front of you". WHAT!!! He tells me she's in a pink kit. My mind tells me there is no turning back now. Time to race! I know I'm way back in the women's field (guessing, at the very least, there are 6 girls ahead of me: Roxanne, Loreen, Laura, Rachel, Melisa, and now pink girl) but a chase is a chase. I work hard for the last mile or so of singletrack, grab my zip tie, and hang a Lester onto the doubletrack. I use that time to recover just a bit, and by the time I hit the gravel road, I'm ready to throw down. And on one of the first turns, I spot a pink kit up ahead.

GOOOO! I ride really hard, but also start eating everything that's left in my bento box. I know a big effort won't do me any good if I bonk later, so I cram several Oreos, some peanut butter crackers, an Amrita bar, and some e-caps down the hatch. I gain on pink kit girl sloooooowly and finally am ready to make the pass. I am terribly inexperienced in passing etiquette. Do I blow right by her? Sit on her wheel? Say hi? I finally decide to ride strong, but say "good job" too. She does not go with me. Relief! I hit the huge downhill that ends in straight pavement so I let the SegSlayer fly. Last year, I got stuck by myself on the pavement in a nasty headwind, so this year I'm thrilled to see 2 dudes just in front of me. They are in matching 312 jerseys and I ask if I can join their train for the pavement. I even offer to pull my share but they insist on doing all of the work. Sweet! The ride back to Berryman Campground seems so much easier than I remember, and it's all because of me drafting. Thanks, 312 guys! On the climb back up to the campground, I make sure to empty my bottle and CamelBak and make a plan for the aid station: check for news on Mark, ditch the CamelBak, load 2 full bottles on the bike, throw a mini-can of Coke in my pocket, and leave. Once in the campground, everything goes to plan, including extra encouragement from Will Scherff! Thanks!

BERRYMAN TO BASS (20 miles, 2:00)
I check my watch leaving the campground and it says 4:05. I can't exactly remember my last year's split but I think it was around 2 hours. I have a big task in front of me if I want to break 6 hours. I get started on the singletrack and it takes a little bit for me to get back in the flow. This section of Berryman has seen tons of love from GORC, but somehow my head isn't processing fast enough for me to enjoy it. I muscle through the first few miles and then feel it: a cramp. Oh no! I cramped in this section last year when chasing Melisa, too. The e-caps on the gravel must not have been enough. I take a few more, and some water, and focus on spinning easy, or standing, anywhere I can. I don't usually cramp at all, but I don't usually ride at 170+ heart-rate either, so I guess I had this coming. For the next several miles I alternate between feeling decent, feeling sloshy stomach, and feeling crampy. I just try to keep moving through it all, however slowly, and finally once I hit the re-route section (where the trail gets lighter and gravely-er) I am feeling slightly normal. My handling has gone to crap, a fact pointed out to me by the guy on my wheel ("you really don't like right turns, do you?"), but I only crash once. As we finally make the turn off of the Berryman Trail, I realize I am very, very close to the well. No, not the well at Beecher Spring, I passed that a while ago, but the figurative well, one that signals the end of your fitness and the beginning of your heart. I don't get to this place very often. Sure, in adventure racing we see the end of our fitness all the time, but it's usually accompanied by more of a mental effort to control fatigue over several more hours of steady effort than a desire to pour your heart into a 7-mile sprint for the finish. But today, I have that chance to just empty myself. I drink my beloved mini-can of Coke on the climb out of Harmon Spring, rid myself of cramps one last time, point my nose toward Bass and haul. 
Do your best.
It's not fun. I even say that to one of the guys I pass - "NOT"...gasp gasp..."FUN". But then I didn't expect this part of the race to be fun, and I don't want it to be, either. I came to BT Epic looking for a soul-crusher and it's landed here in my lap. Time to hurt, and time to do my best. I've been thinking a lot about riding my best this whole race actually, and in my head there's been a picture of Noah, THE Noah as in Team Noah, with his eyes looking up and to the side. I didn't even know him, but that picture speaks to me, just asking for the best effort I can give. A lot of people ask me what I think about during endurance events. I don't always have a cohesive answer, but today it's clear. 7 miles of Noah, 7 miles of racing back to my teammates who I'm sure have already finished and finished well. The 6 hour mark passes, I won't be under it today, but it's no big deal since I know I've rode my heart out and that's what I came here to do.

Maria, Trevor, Adam, Dwayne, Jim, me! pre-race.
I cross the finish line in an exhausted 6:05 and almost immediately see Dwayne who hasn't even changed out of his kit yet, he's been so busy chatting at the finish line. David and Rachel are there too, so I get an immediate download on their days (David: a smokin-fast 5:11, and Rachel: a detour-riddled-but-still-impressive 5:48). I also learn that there are THREE Team Noah riders inside the Top 10 (Dwayne, Trevor, Jim) and I'm the slowest one in the cabin. Hey, someone's got to bring up the rear, and I'm still completely stoked on my ride. I am really proud of my speedy friends, too. I get cleaned up and then stuff my face with the awesome post-race food: full-on BBQ brisket with baked potatoes!!! Yes! I LOVE baked potatoes after a race! And beer from SBC! And meeting blog readers Mike and Josh! The day really couldn't get any better. Except, then in the awards ceremony, Scott and Jake give away 10 bikes and I win one of them! Seriously, this race has the incredible combo of killer singletrack and awesome party. And really cool turquoise socks. You NEED to sign up next year!

handlebar GoPro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMvQZdl8xkI
where you at LJ?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpE_WvGT5YA
Tilford: http://stevetilford.com/2013/10/28/berryman-trail-mtb-classic/
strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/91640649
Roxanne: http://www.dirtgirldiary.com/2013/11/2013-berryman-trail-epic-race-report.html
Sasha: http://apabstsmear.blogspot.com/2013/11/bt-epic.html

does anyone have more pictures? post the link at https://www.facebook.com/pages/BT-Epic/163175240368241

Pin It