30 September 2013

Race Report: 2013 Berryman Adventure 12+hr AR

This one is gonna be a quickie since we're leaving for USARA Nationals on in 3 days, but I wanted to get my thoughts down ASAP before the big dance! 

As I mentioned previously, Alpine Shop was rolling 6 deep to the 2013 edition of Bonk Hard's Berryman Adventure. Because this race was so close to 2 national races, Bonk Hard shortened the normally 36-hr event into a "12+ hr" race. We weren't really sure what that meant, but when we were recruiting our 6th man, Brad, we just told him it was a 12-hour race and that we would be hiking all of the trekking sections because of Carrie's knee. Brad is a very fit dude and has done adventure races before so he was totally game-on, and we were stoked to be joined by such a positive and light-hearted guy.

The six of us meet up at our favorite commuter lot and we take 2 minivans (best adventure vehicles ever) down to Rolla, MO. Brad, Doug and I take a short side trip to visit Dan Fuhrmann at Route 66 Bikes. Brad is a SRAM rep so he just wanted to say "hey" and check out the shop. I always love visiting bike shops, and it's a good chance to pump Dan for local intel...where are the trails? What's the water level in the river? He guesses that we'll probably be paddling the Big Piney River, but there isn't any dedicated singletrack around that area so we'll probably be on horse trails and forest service roads. With that info, we head over to the host hotel to piddle with gear and food until the pre-race meeting at 7.30p. As we are packing, Carrie discovers she left her mountain bike shoes at home! Ahhhh! We run through our options and decide to call Dan at Route 66. He agrees to keep the shop open past the advertised 6pm closing time so she can buy new shoes and pedals. Dan, you are a lifesaver!! Thanks so much! Everyone go visit Route 66 Bicycles in Rolla, MO!
The meeting is signature Bonk Hard Racing style - lots of swag giveaways and then a short, informative presentation by Gary. We get 2 1:24k maps and coordinates for the first 13 CPs of the race. We go back to our hotel rooms to plot, eat pizza, and then piddle some more with gear until bedtime. Race morning is up at 0420, out the door by 0500, arrival at Race HQ about 0545, and then the race starts at 0630! Side note - while we were getting breakfast foods at the hotel, 2 people introduced themselves to me, saying that they read this blog! Thanks for saying hi! Great to meet you Andy and Jon!

TREK 1 (CPs 1-5, 5k) 
Jeff, Brad, David, me, Carrie, Doug, all ready to rock!
The first trek has 4 CPs that teams can obtain in any order. It's a smart way to break up the herd and we have a plan to go roughly clockwise. Except, in the first few hundred meters, we take a wrong turn on a road and end up...not exactly where we wanted. It's no big deal though because David calmly decides to just attack our route backwards. Our plan for this whole race is to take it easy on the treks, so we just hike most of this and then Jeff and I sprint for the punches. I also am wearing my Hokas in their first off-trail outing, and they are doing great! We are contouring below a ridgeline after CP3 and hear some teams start screaming - evidently they ran through a beehive and are getting swarmed! We stop and ask several times if they are okay, and after a few minutes they've calmed down and answer "yes" so we proceed. We arrive back at Race HQ and pick up our bikes for the next leg! 

BIKE 1 (CPs 6-10, 17 miles)
We roll out of TA with 12 happy knees and are soon able to organize into a paceline. Brad picked up an Alpine Shop jersey so it's an incredible sight to see 5 matching kits all lined up in front of me as we motor on down the road. Pretty soon we hit some horse trails/double track which are really rocky and eroded, but since my mtb mojo has returned, I'm totally loving the challenge. We meet up with several other teams at CP7 which is a cave/natural bridge. The map and terrain are pretty confusing and everyone's milling about trying to figure things out. It takes us a while too and we use the opportunity to put a tube in Doug's rear wheel which has gotten squishy in the opening miles. There are some more trails where we get to ride with my FG100 road trip buddy Laura and her husband Will who are a 2-person coed team. We sort of leapfrog with a couple other teams once we hit the pavement and after almost no time at all, we are rolling into the paddle TA!

PADDLE 1 (CPs 11-12, 7.5 miles)

Put-in at CP10. We had to get CPs 41 and 42 before CP14 (not shown, but after CP12).
The paddle put-in is crowded with 5 boats trying to get organized all at the same time. That number would be commotion enough, but we also have to load our bikes into the boats which takes some time. But finally we are gliding along the tranquil waters of the Big Piney River. Brad and I are paddling together and it's absolutely perfect weather for a float. You'll see on the map above that there was a slight twist to this part of the race - there were two "free-choice" CPs (41 and 42) that could be obtained using any mode of travel. Obviously paddling to these CPs would be a poor choice, but before the race we debated 3 different scenarios: 
  • Option A: beach the boats near CP11 and ride bikes up "Ticket Road"
  • Option B: beach the boats near FS174E (north part of riverbend) and ride bikes up
  • Option C: beach boats near CP12 and trek up. 
We were concerned about finding both of these roads, and what their condition would be, and the time it could take to get the bikes back into the boats, so we decided on Option C. That meant we could just focus on paddling, and this river definitely had spots where focus is needed! Brad and I let Jeff and David pilot the other 2 boats in front of us to watch their lines through the tricky sections. 
Brad and me paddling!
We are doing pretty well through the first couple, when we hit a slight riffle that requires a 3 quick turns in a row. We make the first 2, but the current through the third pushes us into/behind a huge rootstock and suddenly we're stuck! I get really nervous because we're starting to go sideways against the current, and with 2 not-cheap bikes laying sideways across the canoe, it's not a good place to be. We can't just go around the other side of the rootstock either because the tree trunk is blocking our way. Somehow we have to overcome the swift current without losing our balance. It's a tense spot to be, and we don't have much time to decide. We try grabbing onto the rootstock to pull us forward, but the bikes make it impossible to get close. The riverbank is just far enough away that we can't reach it with a paddle. Ahhh! Brad takes charge and jumps out of the boat, wading through the chest-deep water to bring us back into alignment with the current and around the rootstock. Somehow he manages to jump back in and the crisis is averted. Relief! It all happened so quickly, but now we're back to paddling peacefully downriver. Our teammates have stopped up ahead and Jeff is actually running up a gravel bar to come help us but I wave him off - we're okay! We make it through the rest of the paddle with ease and pretty soon we see the take-out at CP12.

TREK 2 (CPs 41-42 worth 2 points, 3.5k)

Except, instead of taking out on the right side of the river, we beach the boats on the left and change into trekking shoes to go after CP41 and CP42. David is feeling especially fast so he puts trekking pants on too, and then gleefully leads us (still in shorts) through large patches of stinging nettle. What a great teammate! Pretty soon we're climbing out of it and approaching CP41 where there is a crowd of racers including our friends on 34 Down. What the what? They know better than to chillax around the flag! But as we get closer, we see Bonk Hard volunteer Dan Dougan with a clipboard! Gear check! It's actually really fun to chat with the other teams to see where they attacked these points from. There are two other teams who used our Option A and report that the road wasn't that hard to find. But they still have to deal with the inefficiencies of an out-n-back route, so we are happy with our Option C. We run the road to CP42 and then back down to the boats with a lovely return trip through the stinging nettle! The river here is shallow so Brad and I decide to just wade across it with our boat, and the water is really refreshing on my nettle-d legs. Once we hit CP12, it's time to build bikes and ride out!

BIKE 2 (CPs 13-14, <5 miles)
Carrie, David, and Doug rolling into CP13.

Started at CP12, then rode to CP13 (location approximate), where we learned the location of CP14.

It's a short ride to CP13, where receive the location of CP14. We plot it and learn we will be going to a riverside location. Hmmmmm, maybe that's why we haven't been allowed to drop our paddles anywhere? We ride our bikes to CP14, and the race volunteers hand us UTM coordinates for the next section. We plot the next 9 CPs. This a big trek! We load up our pockets with food from our drop bags and strike out about 1pm.

TREK 3 (CPs 15-23, long)
Team BOR at CP13 checking the location of CP14.
We leave CP 14 with solid confidence and optimism. We are able to do a little running on the roads but most of the off-trail travel is done at a hiking speed. This is perfectly fine with us, especially because we are able to take very direct routes to each of the CPs. David's navigation is terrific as we hit CP after CP in a regular rhythm. This is exactly the trek I wanted from this race - quality time with my friends in the woods, some practice on the maps for David, and moving my legs around before Nationals x2. And everyone is on board with  that plan. We just chat our way through this leg, moving steadily through the woods without seeing any other teams. We are keeping an eye on the clock as well, to make sure we are back at CP23 before the 5.30pm cutoff. Then, somewhere in the middle of the trek, we hear branches snapping and there's another team! We're super curious to know who it is, and pretty soon the 4 members of Team Fusion/Kuat emerge. We are confused, because they were about 1 hour ahead of us at CP12 (the paddle take-out). But unfortunately the navigation monsters attacked them and they had trouble with some of the CPs. Now they are back on track and passing us. We offer them encouragement, and at the same time our spirits are buoyed to realize we might actually be in the mix for the lead! It just goes to show how important navigation is in remote, backwoods races like The Berryman Adventure. We continue at our marching pace and pretty soon are approaching CP23, which is the same location as CP12. We make it through the trek with all CPs in just about 4 hours.

PADDLE 2 (CP 24, maybe 4-5 miles??)

We paddled from CP23 to CP24.
It has started raining, but the temperatures are still warm so we just hop in the boats (this time without bikes) and start paddling downstream. There are a few more tricky sections to paddle through but now Brad and I have got a system down so we make it through just fine. Although I do run us aground on some shallow gravel bars, and Brad volunteers to get out and push. He is a great teammate! The rain continues to fall as we reach the take-out at CP24. The volunteers from earlier this morning are still there, sheltered under a small pop-up tent and handing out final cluesheets to a hoard of sopping wet adventure racers. It's really hard for Jeff, David and me to plot everything because our maps are soaking wet, and the Sharpies won't transfer. We have to take a couple deep breaths to collect ourselves in the chaos of TA and just take each CP one at a time. We finally get everything transferred and plan a sweep route. Time to boogie!

BIKE 3 (CPs 25-29 plus 2-pointers 38, 39, 40)

We ride up the large hill out of CP24 which helps a lot to warm up my soaking wet body. We collect all of the 2-point CPs. These were all located quite a ways off-road and require trekking in mtb shoes to get them. We realize that we won't be able to finish the whole course in the daylight, much less before the final cutoff, which is a little worrisome since not everyone brought good night lights. But, between the six of us, we distribute enough lumens to keep everyone moving decently along the gravel roads and trails. We decide to drop CPs 27, 28, and 29 in order to make it back to the finish line comfortably. There is no reason to cut things close when Carrie's knee has been a trooper all day and we're way beyond the "oh it's just a 12-hr race Brad, come join us" point. So we go punch CP26 which requires a big hike-a-bike up a seriously gnarly horse trail, and then back down and we cruise into Race HQ, greeted by the signature Bonk Hard Racing cowbells!

Jeff, Carrie, David, Brad, me, Doug, all smiles at the finish line!
We finish in a soggy mess and learn we are currently in 2nd and 3rd place overall! 34 Down has 37 points compared to our 36 so they are in 1st place. However, Team Fusion/Kuat (who we saw on the big trek) hasn't come in yet so they could still beat both of us if they've got more points. We hang around the finish line, get our pictures taken, and I get to catch up a little bit with Rachel from Bushwhacker which is awesome. After only about 10 minutes, Team Fusion/Kuat rolls through, but they've got 35 CPs so our position is solidified. We are really, really proud of 2nd/3rd place overall. We worked together as a team to stay motivated and moving forward throughout the whole race, despite it being much longer and more challenging than any of us were anticipating. For all of you racers reading this, I hope you realize that this course definitely lived up to its tagline - it's a real ass kicker! The fact that no team cleared the whole thing shows that. The weather and the amount of on-the-clock plotting could have driven many teams into disfunction, but we stayed calm and committed when things were slow. It was so great to have Carrie back in the woods, giving an absolute clinic on what it means to be tough. Brad got way more race than we promised him, and he rose to the challenge with positivity and tons of jokes. Jeff, David, and Doug were their usual studly selves, and that's why I love racing on team Alpine Shop! Now, get ready to cheer us on at USARA Nationals!

ROCK Racing: http://rock-racing.blogspot.com/2013/10/berryman-adventure-race-2013.html
ROCK Racing Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/103902132@N04/
Team Roadkill: http://www.justinrummel.com/2013-berryman-adventure-race/ with a super cool GPS map!
34 Down: http://sunnygilbert.blogspot.com/2013/10/race-report-berryman-adventure-race.html Pin It

25 September 2013

Ready, Set...

OK I sort of already posted about this here, but since I can't hardly think about anything else I'm going to write some more. The next three weekends are going to be the magic. Why? Three great races, four great teams, lots more great friends, I just can't wait!
hehe...I just had to use the old race logo! 
FIRST UP: Bonk Hard Berryman 12+hr Adventure Race
aka The Return of Carrie Sona!!!!!!!!!!
September 28, 2013
Mark Twain National Forest near Rolla, MO
For anyone outside of the midwestern AR/MTB scene, Carrie has been rehabbing a complicated knee injury all year, which is the reason I've been racing with her team Alpine Shop. The Berryman is her return to adventure racing and we couldn't be happier! This is perfect timing for reasons you'll see below, but the Alpine Shop regulars (David, Jeff, and Doug) are teaming up with everyone's favorite SRAM/ZIPP rep Brad to create 2 teams. Jeff and Carrie are Alpine Shop - 2P and David, Doug, Brad, and I are Alpine Shop - Not 2P (see what we did there?). The Berryman AR always draws a large field of talented teams and this year is no different. Because Jeff, David and I have USARA Nationals the next week, we are just going to cruise through the race instead of kill ourselves in the battle for the podium. I'm so excited to spend a day in the woods with my friends! Look for 34 Down and Team Fusion/Kuat to battle it out for the 4-person coed category. In the 2-person coed category, Tiny Trail Ninjas, Out2Play, and late-entries Bushwhacker 1 and 2 are sure to lead the pack. The 2-person male category has a bunch of good teams too so it's gonna be a huge party in the woods! I can't wait!

USARA Adventure Race National Championship

AND THEN: USARA National Championship 30hr Adventure Race
October 4-5, 2013
Brown County State Park near Nashville, IN
Just 6 days after romping through Mark Twain National Forest, Alpine Shop will be hitting up Indiana's Brown County State Park for some national championship adventure racing action. The team list for this race has got me literally shaking in my trail shoes - I've never participated in a field stacked this deep with talented athletes. Just go here and look at a veritable who's-who of American adventure racing.
2012 USARA National Championship podium. Photo by Vladimir Bukalo.
Top contenders from the Midwest include our friends at:
  • Bushwhacker - recent champions of Thunder Rolls 24hr and all three are killer navigators! 
  • Rev3/MK Midwest - had one of their best races at Thunder Rolls and are on... a roll!
  • GearJunkie/WEDALI - defending USARA champions are bringing TWO teams, each capable of pulling off a win! unbelievable!
From the East Coast, we've got:
  • TeamSOG - last year's third place finishers and racing with the indomitable spirit of Scotty P!
  • Checkpoint Zero - both the Coed and Masters look tough to beat, especially with Joe on the maps!
  • Odyssey - both Coed and Masters (featuring our dear friend Sara and ace navigator Mark) look really fast!
And in the West Coast corner, we have:
  • Team Tecnu - 2nd-place finishers for three years running, will this be their year?! 
  • DART-nuun-Feed The Machine - expedition race veterans are throwing down on the "short" course!
If you include Alpine Shop in this list (sentimental favorites around here, obviously), then we have 10 teams each capable of hoisting the championship trophy on October 5th. That's not to mention the host of other teams (53 total!) who I'm not as familiar with, but are at Nationals for a reason and will be chomping at the bit to race hard. But the biggest unanswered question is, will I finally get to meet Abby Perkiss???

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE: Checkpoint Tracker National Championship 30hr Adventure Race
October 11-12, 2013
somewhere around Knoxville, TN with an urban finish line!
Oh, what's that, you didn't get enough championship adventure racing last weekend? I didn't either. A mere 6 days after turning ourselves inside out at USARA Nationals, team Alpine Shop is picking up Doug and heading to Knoxville for Checkpoint Tracker Nationals. Why two Nationals Championships? I'll to that in a second, but bottom line is the field is also stacked for this event. Checkpoint Zero, Team Tecnu, and GearJunkie/WEDALI (again....two teams...seriously!) are also going for the double along with us and it should be another barn burner!

Weeeeeeeee are the champions! 
Welllllll, it's sorta hard to explain. GearJunkie had a go at it back in 2011, read it here. Basically, there are two private organizations competing to be the national governing body for the sport of adventure racing. United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA) is the older of the two (existing since at least 2000) and organizes a series of regional qualifying races for their national championship. Checkpoint Tracker is the newer (since 2010?), flashier organization which accepts all-comers to its national championship. Both organizations attempt to keep/update national rankings, and in my opinion both do an equally horrible job. Both organizations attempt to provide live broadcasting of races, including nationalses, and both have seen only limited success. From the general public's perspective, it's confusing. But from a racer's perspective, it's awesome to race against two stacked fields to close out the season! And, to make things simpler, let's just ask WWWD? (what would WEDALI do)? Answer: win them both.

1. Yes I will be missing Burnin at the (singular) Bluff. I am really sad about this, especially since I rode what may have been my fastest lap ever last weekend. But I'm leaving it up to my Team Noah teammate Maria to keep the women's 12hr solo buckle in the family! Go get 'em honey badger! Everyone else, please GTF in my absence.
2. I'll post live-tracking info for the Nationalses when I have it. Check my twitter or facebook. No guarantees it will actually work. But don't worry, you can expect long-ass thorough race reports for each of them!
3. I am so excited to show everyone what team Alpine Shop can do at all of these races. We've been training and racing together all year now, ever since freezing our fingers off at LBL in February. These people have been my rock all year long, we've gotten fitter and faster together, and we're ready to throw down! Yeah! Lately I've been reminded of a throwback quote from the 1998 World Cup Champions, France:
"This team possesses a wonderful joie de vivre and a will to win as well."
--Midfielder Emmanuel Petit, who scored the final goal in France's 3-0 victory over Brazil. And who has stunningly beautiful hair.
That's what I've been lucky enough to experience as a part of the Alpine Shop team - a joie de vivre. Undying enthusiasm for the outdoors, for working hard, and for being kind. And laughing. We do a lot of laughing.

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11 September 2013

Race Report: 2013 Fool's Gold 100

As I neared the first false summit of the Winding Stair Gap climb in the opening miles of the 2013 Fool's Gold 100, there was a solitary guy sitting in a ProGold van cheering racers on. I was in my normally happy mountain-bike-racing mood and we exchanged a friendly greeting as I slowly pedaled by. He told me to think about how lucky I am to be able to spend the whole day riding bikes. As I rode away, that line stuck in my head. Three weeks ago, I trying to assess the damage from a running fall to my knee. I could barely walk across my apartment, let alone bend the knee enough to make a full pedal stroke. I spent 10 days off the bike and another 5 days before I could put in a decent training day. And here I was, in the opening miles of what would be my longest mountain bike ride to date, with my legs feeling surprisingly decent and a beautiful Georgia sunrise spreading slowly through the forest. Lucky. Yes. Indeed.
Sort of like what we got glimpses of during the Winding Stair Gap climb.
I'm known for writing long-winded thorough race reports,and this one is no exception. But also, you get a bonus! Eddie and Namrita at 55nine Performance concocted an enchanting blend of gravel, doubletrack, and singletrack that wound its way through the Chattahoochee National Forest. But I thought it was really hard to understand the course on paper without having ridden it previously. I struggled wrapping my mind around the maps and descriptions that were available, so here's your bonus - my own course Cliff Notes at the end of this post! Just scroll down to the NERD ALERT section.
Maria, Laura, and me getting coffeeeee!
Actually this is after the race but the drive home was just as much fun as the drive there.
The trip to Georgia started out on Friday morning at my apartment in St. Louis. My dear friends Laura (Momentum Racing) and Maria (Team Noah Foundation) met me and we loaded up Laura's vehicle with everything 3 girls need to ride 250 miles (me and Maria in the hundo and Laura in the 50). We hit the road with coffees in hand right on schedule. A few hours down the interstate and we pass the other half of our St. Louis contingent - Dwayne and Peat of Team Noah and Jim of Dogfish! We didn't expect to see them on the road but turns out they got a speeding ticket so they were behind schedule. They were determined to pre-ride, through, so they boogied on south as us girls took a more leisurely trip to Dahlonega. That car ride was one of the most hilarious of my entire life - it seemed like we were laughing hysterically for the entire 550 miles. Right there, even if I got a huge mechanical in the first 10 miles of the race, I knew this trip would be a success. We rolled into the painfully cute town of Dahlonega about 5.45pm, picked up our packets, checked into the hotel (livin' large!), and rode our bikes down to the racer meeting. It was short and sweet and honestly not as mandatory as advertised. Then Laura got hangry so we hustled back to the hotel to eat dinner and prep our drop bags. Oh, and Maria and I went to Wal-Mart to spend $90 on beer...Yuengling!
Me, Maria, Laura before the start!
Race morning, and I donned my Pfoodman kit for one last time since my Team Noah kit is still in production. We drove over to Montaluce Winery and woke the boys up who were van-camping. Maria and I dropped our drop bags and got ready for the 100-mile start at 0700. Tires inflated, chain lubed, successful porta-potty visit, gloves on, quick photo, and boom! Before I know it I'm lining up in my first-ever NUE series race.

The start is a car-controlled neutral roll-out from Montaluce on paved roads. I'm sure the top contenders thought the pace was relaxed but I'm already a little gassed off the back. I'm not sure if this is lack of warm-up, or lack of fitness (either overall or from the knee injury), but I just do my best to manage my effort and not ruin my day in the opening miles. I also know that the field at Fool's Gold is small but extremely talented, with most of these riders having completed multiple NUE races already this year, so it doesn't even make sense for me to try and stick with them. I just do my thing, keep the pedals turning and focus on the big picture. A few miles up the start of the climb, a pick-up truck flies past me and a racer behind me yells at it "HEY!". The pick-up abruptly stops and a total Georgia hillbilly gets out and starts screaming mean things at the racer behind me. I'm caught totally unawares and unprepared - we have some nasty drivers in Missouri but I've never heard a confrontation like this. They exchange some words as I keep pedaling and soon enough the hillbilly gets back in his truck and continues flying up the hill. I really, really hope he doesn't hurt anyone!

I finally crest the first false summit and the ProGold guy gives me a huge dose of encouragement. I continue pedaling in my happy place until a speedy downhill section Ts into an intersection. Course markings indicate a right turn and I make it without hesitation. But only a few hundred meters later, I see Maria and a group of 4-5 people riding back at me. Whaaaa....? Somehow they figured out that the course markings were wrong (vandalized) so I turn around after only about a minute or so. Other riders were not so lucky. So I vow to pay more attention to the pink marking tape and continue on my way.
Turner Creek Singletrack. Photo from 2012.
I roll into SAG #1 in 1h51m and I'm super stoked to have completed the worst climbing of the whole day in under 2 hours! Maria is already there topping off her water bottle, but I don't need anything, so we roll out together. Eddie warned us about the ensuing descent being steep and loose so we take it really cautiously. The 50-milers have caught up to us and are zipping around everywhere. Evidently no one in Georgia has been to a Larry Pirtle-officiated race because no one is telling me where and when they are passing. This makes me angry, actually, because I have absolutely no problem letting faster riders by, regardless of terrain. But I can't let people by when they don't tell me if they're on the right or left or what. So I probably cut a lot of people off, and I apologize, but it's really their own fault for not communicating. The descent itself is less sketchy than advertised but the behavior of other racers make it more dangerous than it needs to be. We finally reach the bottom and dive into the singletrack of Turner Creek. Now, it's the 50-mile women that are streaming past me, but it seems they are way better at talking. I am more than happy to let them pass and I feel a huge whoosh each time one goes by...these women are total singletrack-shredding studs!!! I am in complete awe and wish them good luck on their race. On the otherhand, I am riding like a total pansy. I am being overly cautious about not crashing and re-injuring my knee, plus I can't tell if this Georgia dirt gets sticky (good) or slimy (bad) when it's slightly damp with morning dew. I just decide to take things super careful and slow.

Much to my delight, I make it through the first piece of singletrack in one piece and with a little more course knowledge - nothing seems especially slimy/slippery and in fact my tires are getting good traction. Also, these Georgia trails have significantly less sharp nasty rocks than ours in Missouri so I tell myself to suck it up and get brave. We have a short 2-mile gravel connector and then jump onto more singletrack. This is in a burned-out section of forest and it seems recently cut - the trail is still pretty rough (later I learned that this is the Jones Creek Trail). But the climb is gradual and rideable and I love riding through burned forest because it makes me feel like I'm in The Hunger Games. I meet up with another woman rider, Elsa, and we tackle the switchbacks together. Then we catch up with Maria, and Julie from Michigan, while riding across the Lake 32 dam which is weird because there is no lake in sight, just a big earthen berm. Julie tells me it's only about 1 mile to SAG #2 and I'm stoked!
This might not be exactly one of the trails we rode, but it's similar.
Red clay, open forest, minimal rocks.
As I roll into SAG #2, Maria is just starting to deal with her drop bag and bottles. A super-awesome volunteer helps me fill 1 of my bottles and then I'm ready to go. I really dislike hanging around at aid stations so I tell Maria that I'm leaving and hit the Bull Mountain Loop for the first of two times today. I know from my limited course recon that this loop contains the only other significant climb on the course so I make sure that I'm keeping up with food and drink in the first few miles. The climb is significant, about 1,000 feet in 5 miles, but there is a good amount of double-track so it's not terrible. I'm a few miles into the loop when St. Louis pro Drew Edsall flies past me. I am really, really confused by this. Sure, I'm slow, but there's no way he's on his second lap already. But that must mean he was behind me all this time? Maybe he had a huge mechanical? I silently ponder all of these scenarios and continue pedaling. Then several minutes later, I hear a familiar voice behind me...it's Peat! Now I'm super confused but Peat sheds some light on the whole sitch- there was a big group that went 10+ miles off course (where I only went a few hundred meters). He's really bummed but he's also feeling great so he flies past me too and gets on with his race (MOAR DROP BARS!). I get on with my race too, making it to the top of the climb and then charging down the descents. Fun stuff!! Back into the SAG stop, I stuff my face with peanut M&Ms, fill up my other bottle, and roll out.

The next section is where the race starts to get lonely for me, but not in a bad way. I do a lot of riding by myself and don't mind it at all. Before the race, Maria and I discussed riding together but I was hesitant to commit to a plan since I know my all-day pace and didn't really want to alter it for my first mtb hundo. So I just cruise through the Jake Mtn Trail singletrack and think all-day thoughts. I revel in the fact that my knee isn't bothering me, that I'm in freaking GEORGIA riding my mountain bike, that I'm so thankful for the support of Team Noah, that I like eating turkey sandwiches. Things just cruise along until SAG#4, which I sort of forgot about but I don't need anything anyway. I don't even stop, just keep the SegSlayer crushing!

There are a few riders around me as I leave SAG#4 and I try to let them by in the short distance we have until the singletrack. The trail entrance is a slight left turn off of the gravel and it's hard to see - I don't catch it at first because there is someone passing me. But I see it at the last second and yell to the rider who missed it. He doesn't hear me. I try yelling again, same response, another rider shows up, he yells, nothing. Then I tell him to go ahead of me on the singletrack. He refuses, saying he's a rigid SS and my fork and gears will surely be faster. Umm....do you know me, the world's most tentative descender? I give him an out but he insists so I just dive in and start riding. He is able to keep up on a 32/21 which should tell you something about how I take unfamiliar downhills. But I drop him once the trail flattens out and I pop out on some gravel. Not a few seconds later, I see two other 100-milers riding towards me...what? One of them is a girl (in hindsight, I think it's Vicki Barclay since her kit was pink) and I give her the most confused "Am I going the right way?" ever. She assures me that I am, THANKS VICKI!!!, so I keep pedaling despite being unsure. Then there's a volunteer at an intersection who tells me to turn left to get to the cooler drop. So I have hope that I'm still on course. The cooler drop is farther down the road than I thought but I use the extra time to drain my bottles and camelbak. I re-stock out of my cooler and get ready to tackle a new part of the course! End of Lap 1!

OK, wow, that was a lot of words to describe 52 miles of mountain biking. Lap 2 wasn't nearly that exciting. I rode mostly by myself (again, not a bad thing). I was rejuvenated with a camelbak full of CR333 and some Peachie-Os (thanks, Erl!). I didn't have any crashes. My hands, arms, and ass started hurting but my legs felt pretty good all day. I stayed on course. I didn't have any mechanicals. I stopped quite a few times to get off the bike and stretch out my lower back. Once I hit the pavement, I spotted a rider up ahead and I knew I had to chase him down. I passed him quickly, but I'm not even sure if he was a 100- or 50-mile rider. I was dreading the paved entrance back into Montaluce but it turns out there is a cool shortcut for the end of the race that made me really happy. Even that creek and the hike-a-bike made me happy!! I could hear the podiums being announced as I neared the finish line and that freaked me out a little bit. I didn't know what the finish line set-up looked like and I didn't want to cause a scene, finishing in the middle of the podium presentations. But as I neared the Kenda arch, I could see that the podium area was aways a bit and I could sneak by without screwing up anyone's moment of glory. So I crossed under the arch, heard my timing chip beep, and then heard Laura cheering for me down the hill so I just rode down there and got off my bike for one last time! I had to lay in the grass for several minutes in my sweaty kit just to get my back to relax a little bit. But no sooner than I had changed clothes and grabbed a cold Yuengling, than Maria finished with Elsa!! Laura and I were walking near the finish line anyway so I handed Maria my beer and got to hear about her day. She hung tough and finished her first mtb hundo really strong! Go Maria! Dwayne and Peat and Jim came over to chat too, and I hear that they absolutely crushed it. These guys are so awesome and I'm so stoked to be a part of Team Noah. Whoop!
Women's podium. I am not on it because dang these girls are fast!!
1st Cheryl Sornson. 2nd Vicki Barclay. 3rd Brenda Simril.
Overall, I definitely achieved my goal of having a "solid NUE series debut". I played it super safe to protect my knee, and to not dig myself in too deep of a fatigue hole 4 weeks prior to adventure racing nationals. I was disappointed that my time was SO FAR BACK from the top women, but now I've got a baseline experience to draw on and build from. Despite being confusing on paper, I thought the course was incredible - a terrific mix of gravel and singletrack. The trails were super fast and fun (thank you SORBA!) and way less technical than I was anticipating. I've seen climb numbers between 10,000' and 14,000' for the 100-mile (actually 95-mile) route so I'd guess it was about 12,000'. I didn't have any mechanicals, I avoided the vandalized course markings for the most part, and I didn't bonk. The road trip with Maria and Laura was one of the most fun I've ever been on....EVER! And most of all, I experienced terrific support from my Team Noah Foundation teammates both in person and through texts/facebook. We've got big plans for NUE 2014...watch out!!

Here's my Strava file if you care. If you export the .gpx file to use, please note the wrong turn around mile 13.5 (you need to go L on Rock Creek Road instead of R). My detour was so short that I didn't even count it in my mileages below. But you've been warned. Also, the stuff in blue below means that it's a repeat of Loop 1. Mileages are estimates off of my .gpx file. They're probably not exact, but close enough for a 100-mile route. Also there are a number of creek crossings, all but 1 were rideable.

START to SAG #1 (17.4 miles)
0-4ish paved
4-17.4 gravel, Winding Stair Gap climb aka Cooper Gap climb

SAG #1 to SAG #2 (9.8 miles)
17.4-20.2 steep downhill but not terrible
20.2-22.1 singletrack, Turner Creek Trail
22.1-24.0 gravel with a short .25mi singletrack connector
24.0-27.2 burned out singletrack (Jones Creek), over the Etowah Lake 32 dam, then up to SAG

SAG #2 to SAG #3 (BULL MTN LOOP, 11.3 miles)
27.2-33.2 mostly climbing, starts as doubletrack then into singletrack
33.2-38.5 mostly descending, especially at end! wheeeeee

SAG #3 to SAG #4 (8.2 miles)
38.5-39.3 gravel out of SAG
39.3-40.5 singletrack
40.5-40.6 short gravel connector
40.6-46.3 singletrack, Jake Mtn Trail
46.3-46.4 gravel into SAG

SAG #4 to SAG #5 (20.5 miles, includes SAG #4.5 cooler drop)
46.4-46.7 gravel out of SAG
46.7-49.7 singletrack, Black Branch Trail
49.4-50.2 gravel, L turn onto Hightower Church Road (50s make a R and return to Montaluce)
50.2-52.2 gravel
52.2 SAG #4.5 cooler drop just outside Army Ranger Base, then turn L into Base
52.2-57.9 gravel through Ranger Base, I can't remember any singletrack but there might have been some
57.9-58.1 gravel connector
58.1-59.7 singletrack, No Tell Trail
59.7-60.2 gravel connector
60.2-62.1 singletrack, Turner Creek Trail
62.1-64 gravel with a short .25mi singletrack connector
64.0-67.2 burned out singletrack (Jones Creek), over the Etowah Lake 32 dam, then up to SAG

SAG #5 to SAG #6 (BULL MTN LOOP, 11.3 miles)
67.2-73.2 mostly climbing, starts as doubletrack then into singletrack
73.2-78.5 mostly descending, especially at end! wheeeeee

SAG #6 to SAG #7 (8.2 miles)
78.5-79.5 gravel out of SAG
79.3-80.6 singletrack
80.6-80.7 short gravel connector
80.7-86.5 singletrack, Jake Mtn Trail
86.5-86.6 gravel into SAG

SAG #7 to FINISH (8.3 miles)
86.6-86.7 gravel out of SAG
86.7-89.4 singletrack, Black Branch Trail
89.4-90.2 gravel, R turn onto Hightower Church Road for return to Montaluce
90.2-91ish gravel
91ish-93.8 paved
93.8-95.0 shortcut through Montaluce to finishline. includes grassy doubletrack, pavement, and a hike-a-bike creek crossing!

overall winner Mike Danish http://mikedanishracing.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/fools-gold-100/
Gerry Pflug http://pfunwithpflug.blogspot.com/2013/09/fools-without-apostrophe.html
Eric Coomer http://www.otcadventure.com/adventures/2013/09/10/searching-for-louis-friend/
Cycling News http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/national-ultra-endurance-nue-series-fools-gold-100-2013/results
SS winner AJ Linnell http://ajplayingwithgravity.blogspot.com/2013/09/fools-on-wheels.html
Maria Esswein http://teamnoahfoundation.com/4/post/2013/09/honey-badger-patronus.html Pin It