Monday, October 28, 2013

The off (awful) season . . .

You may be wondering if I dropped off the face of the earth.

Or perhaps you haven't wondered it all... probably have better things to do than read this blog, but every time I post, you get sucked in because, like a really fantabulous NASCAR race, you are hoping to see a crash.

Well, I won't keep you waiting then.

Taking five classes with four labs is crazy f-ing business!! If you want to have any sort of free time whatsoever, you will never do such a thing.  Fortunately, I knew what I was getting into, so I am doing my best not to have a nervous breakdown and not to bitch about it (too much).  

So let's move on... nothing more to see here.

So things have been a little crazy in these parts.  I'm just coming off a weekend of writing 3 lab reports and cramming for an exam... meanwhile, I've neglected to produce another 5 pages towards my senior thesis for English or prepare for any of the three labs I have tomorrow.  

Yet here I am writing this...  

But I had to.  You see, I've missed writing about my adventures.  More importantly, I miss having adventures.  

That's why I'm spending a few precious minutes writing this.  I am preparing for next year's adventures.  I haven't planned too much yet, but the key to racing in 2014 is going to be planning.  

So here's what I'm looking forward to (so far):
  • Singlespeed-a-palooza
  • The Tran-sylvania Mountain Bike Epic - it's 7 days of racing and it's going to take a lot of planning to be ready.  
  • A top-secret (maybe not so secret if I'm posting it here) renegade hundred in the backwoods of Rhode Island and CT at the end of April (just in time for finals).
  • The Patapsco 100 - you bet your ass I'm doing that again!  
There's a chance I might do a bit of the NUE series next year (only races close to home), and I fully intend to call the MTB season quits at the end of August and train for 'cross!  

Yup, you read that right... 

I want to put in some effort for a season and see what it's like to be in shape racing 'cross.  I already know what it's like to be out of shape, and that's even kind of fun.  

What I'm hoping to get out of this post are some suggestions about what races I ought to add to the calendar for 2014... so go ahead, tell me... 

In the meantime, I'm going to read about whatever it is I'm doing with chicken fetuses in lab tomorrow... 

...scrambled eggs?  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hampshire 100 (2013 edition)

 (WARNING: Profanity alert)

I think I signed up for this race back when there was still snow on the ground here in CT.  After last year, I knew I wanted to do it again to improve my time.  Not only that, but I wanted to throw down with the big girls and try for a top 3 finish. 

Then I got all gung ho about school and signed up for a summer calculus class, and I scored a sweet internship where I get paid money to write stuff (and I do some other stuff there too).   

BUT, I’VE LEARNED MY LESSON… There will be no summer classes for me in 2014.  And for the record, I passed calculus (B-).  I’m not typically okay with grades that low, but I worked my ass off for that one.

Basically, life got busy, and it was by my own doing. 

So when people ask me, “What have you been doing to prepare for the NH100?,”  I can honestly say, nothing special.  I went on a really fun group 60+ mile dirt/paved road ride a couple of weeks ago that had lots of NH100-like gravely climbs in it, and I’ve been racing the usual xc races (yeah, I know I’ve been slacking in the blog department). 

But… I really did nothing special. Riding during the past few weeks was sporadic – I did hill repeats once and otherwise played on the singlespeed in the woods to build up my tolerance for pain. 

For someone who wanted to improve her time, I did not do much to prepare.

And besides that, if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know that I’m a bit impulsive…

… so you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I signed up to do the NH100 short track xc race the night before the 100 miler (really good way to prepare, right?). And it also wouldn’t be a shocker to learn that I went really hard in that race…

… and took a beer hand-up of Dale’s Pale Ale.  And a dollar to go even harder (thanks, Anthony).

Yeah, that was silliness.  But it was a freakin’ blast!!  They started
NH100 miler start - stolen from the Hampshire 100 FB page
the men and women together upon our request, and I somehow managed to be third going into the woods off the start. 

Ummm… what?  Yeah… that didn’t last for long.  I settled into a nice steady pace and finished 6th overall while taking the win for the women.

I was sure glad to finish that race because that meant dinnertime, and I ate not one, but two $5 pasta dinners (for sale at the race venue). 

I’d driven up to the race that afternoon following work with Donnie D (owner of DAS), and we met up with Tracy, Ben, Matt, Gary (Death Row Velo), and Oliver (Peace, Love, & Pedals). We all skipped out on the racer’s meeting so we could get settled in at the campground across the street before it got dark. 

It was actually a good idea that we camped there – the two hour drive home would have been miserable Sunday night, and camping at the actual venue was for Saturday only.  So keep that in mind if you think you might want to do this race in the future.

So we went back to the campsite and partied like the rockstars we are…

… okay, we each had a beer and were in bed by 10pm, but we had to be up at 5am and be ready to ride our bikes all day long -Tracy, Ben, and Matt were doing the 100K, and Don, Oliver, Gary, and I were doing the 100 miles.  Either way, that’s a lot of riding.

We had a mostly uneventful night full of restless sleep due to the weird creature making alarming noises in the dark (after the 2nd night, we were in agreement that it was an probably an owl not a bigfoot), and we woke up dark and early to the cacophony of various iPhone sound-effects and LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It – all at once. 

I did my best to eat, stay calm, and make sure I didn’t forget anything.  I didn’t need another Patapsco debacle where I set out without any food in my pocket (doh!). 

We were over at the start area before 6am, but it seemed as though there’d been a rush on all things hot
100K Men's start
and caffeinated.  So we had to wait for coffee.  But the good old Hampshire 100 crew was on their mark, and we didn’t wait long. 

Now, if you think the lines for port-a-potties are bad at ordinary bike races, you should see them before a 100K/mile bike race.  People are hard-pressed to get their business done before they spend ALL DAY on their bikes – it’s not something you want to be dealing with when you’re out there (but it happens).

After an exciting pep-talk by the race promoters, it was all-of-a-sudden time to line up.  I found myself next to Jocelyn and Linda, and Karen heckled me with a “sucker!” because she’d opted for the shorter day by doing the 100K (which she won). 

Before I had a chance to rethink anything, we were off.  And we were going fast.  I knew the first 20 miles would be super fast, so I told myself to play it smart.  As much as I hate riding a paceline, I found myself naturally sucking every wheel I could.  The benefit of being short is that people don’t usually notice or mind as much when you’re hovering behind them like that (at least that’s what I tell myself). 

I was with a pretty large pack of riders for quite awhile, and Linda was right on my wheel for a bit.  Right up until we “left the beach,” as one of the promoters described it, and hit the wall.  So basically, you ride wicked freakin’ fast for 20 or so miles, and then the “real climbing” starts.  And by real climbing, they mean most people will be walking their bikes.  But I knew what was coming, and I’m not most people (yeah, I can brag because I rode that gravely wall!). 

Of course, what goes up, must come down… but we didn’t descend for long before we were climbing again.  This time, it was up the power line climb.  Now, because I’d done this race last year, I’d done some really effective brain work over the last year to make these climbs seem way more awful in my head than they really were.  So the power line climb actually looked a little less terrible than last year. 

I’m worried that now, I’m going to think all of these climbs aren’t so bad, and I’ll get a rude awakening next year… ugh…  vicious cycle of insanity.

photo by Gabriel Crooker
(Oh wait, did I just say I’m doing this again next year?  You bet your ass I did.)

Okay… back to the power-line climb…  I was with some of those crazy guys who were trying to ride all day with just one gear (craziness, I tell you), and one of them was Thom.  I got to stare at his JRA socks while we marched up the hill, and I tried to crack some sort of joke about him walking too slow.  Nobody was laughing.  Walking up that hill sucked.  I guess some people rode that, but after being a hero on the wall, I wasn’t about to be a superhero and try to ride this. 

I didn’t see Thom again until I was just creeping out of the woods from my only pee break. Good thing there’s no footage of that.

He took off on his fancy one-geared bike, and I was off to bask in the misery of a horrible bonk.  Just before this, at around mile 48, there’d been an aid station.  I’d just grabbed what I needed from my drop bag, but what I didn’t anticipate was the overwhelming need for caffeine that hit me soon after I left that aid station.

Also at the mile-48 aid station, I saw Nichole, Matt’s wife.  Seeing someone you know out there is one of the most wonderful things you might experience during a race like this.  But I should have known
This is me at mile 48 - Thanks, Nichole!
when I had trouble responding to her questions that a bonk was lurking on the horizon.

So, for the next 10 miles or so, I was in a pretty sad state.  Not a good way to be when you’re riding on singletrack and trying to beat your time from last year.  I figured I was somewhere around 3rd or 4th place, but there was no way of knowing. 

When I finally saw the mile-59 aid station in the distance, I immediately started yelling to ask if they had any coke.  Well, they sure did - it was lined up on the table in Dixie cups, and I did at least 4 shots of it.  Then a kind woman offered me an expresso gel which I graciously thanked her for and stuffed up the leg of my shorts (fuel up the right leg and trash up the left).

All I had to do next was cruise through the start finish area and set out on the short lap. 

As the coke slowly started to kick in, I began to feel a little better, and I was able to really enjoy the last sections of singletrack leading back to the park where we started. 

As I came through, I saw Karen and yelled out to her some bit of nonsense before riding through to the aid station.  I pulled every bit of food out of my bag that I could stand to carry, had someone lube my chain, and stuffed more caffeinated gel up my shorts – all while pounding more coke. 

In the middle of this chaos, Karen had cruised over to tell me that 1) I was in second place and 2) Vicki’s bike was broken but she was still riding.  Also, they told me I was only about 5 minutes or so behind her.  I almost started to cry.  After some other kind words by Karen, I rushed back out onto the course feeling like that pep-talk had given me the kick in the ass I needed.

From here, you ride a lot of the roads/trails you rode on lap 1, but at some point, you get redirected onto a bunch of other stuff before getting dumped back onto the main course.  This way, you’re not doing 120-something miles. 

So there I was, hammering down the road as fast as my tired legs could crank me along.  And I was wishing my sorry ass off for a wheel to suck.  I rode the next twenty miles without seeing a single human except for the folks at the one aid station where some guy decided to drive his truck into my line of travel and force me to yell.

I think I mentioned this in last year’s write-up, but the one good part about the second loop is you miss the “wall after the beach” and the “power-line climb,” and instead, you get to climb something that can only be equated to “much friggin’ worse.”  But after that, you get some paved stuff at mile 85 (also more uphill).

This year's fiddler - found her! 
Somehow you’re dumped back into the course.  You can look at my garmin file to get a glimpse of the course from a really high bird’s-eye-view.

I actually got a second wind in the last 30 miles (or maybe it was just my first wind), and I was able to crank pretty hard while feeling surprisingly good – caffeine is the best dope ever.  I was still thinking (hoping) I’d catch Vicki, but at the same time, I didn’t want to pass her if her bike was indeed broken and she was still riding it (which it turns out… she was). 

As soon I was within 4 miles of the finish, I hammered the singletrack with everything I had.  I’m actually surprised by how clean I rode everything all day – even when I was bonked.  Last year I fumbled every time I hit real trails because I was so thrown for a loop by the tight twisty stuff. 

It was the best feeling in the world to find myself riding through the campground (across from the finish area) because from there, it was pavement to the homestretch.  It looked like I’d reached my goal of finishing in under 10 hours, but it was hard to be sure…

…I’d forgotten to turn my garmin on until a few miles into the race.  For the record, that’s a really dumb move. 

Here’s why:  1) you won’t know how far you are from the aid stations, 2) you will spend all day calculating what you think might be your correct (a) time and (b) mileage, and 3) you will start talking to yourself because you’ll have gone completely insane. 

 So like I said, dumb move.

As soon as I finished, I saw Brian Spring (Karen’s mechanic and an all around wicked cool dude), and shortly after that, my teammates came over for high-fives.  I was eager to check my official time, and finally snuck off to peek at the timing screen… 9:48:58. SUCCESS! 

Thanks, Mark Drogalis!
I was second woman overall. Vicki had me by about 31 minutes, and I finished ahead of Linda by about 50 minutes.  Fourth and Fifth finished 10 and 20 minutes after Linda respectively, and it looks like all of the women who started the race finished the race (not so, for the 15 men who DNF).  I think I was about 40th overall out of 88 finishers. 

What an awesome race. 

As I was washing my face, Thom managed to find me with his camera . . .

Here I am talking about wrestling.

I felt like a rambling fool.

Next stop was a delicious plate of food, some Smuttynose IPA (thanks Tracy), and chatting with friends under the pavilion. 

The podium held the friendliest group of ladies ever, and I had to high-five Vicki twice – once for winning and the second time for winning on a monster gear.  She’s awesome!

It was cool getting to watch Donnie D finish the race, and Amy (his wife) and Maggie (their dog-child) had arrived at just the right time to be able to snap his photo and lick him (I’m sure you can figure out who did what). 

Later, back at the campsite, we ended up ordering pizza and attempting to drink beer..  It’s actually not manageable to drink more than one beer after that much riding.  It was fun to hang out exchanging our stories from the day and comparing notes. But as soon as the food started to hit the tummies, everyone got really quiet and really sleepy.  

The end.  Zzzzzzz

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Gnar Weasels Shredeth: It shredeth some other people, but I was actually okay for the most part...

Once again, I am late in getting this out . . . 

. . . But if you follow my blog, you should be used to that by now.

It’s Gnar Weasels Race Report time, and in an effort to be brief while conserving time, I’ve opted to incorporate some new features into this blog post. 

Let’s start with this . . .

Top Ten Reasons to Race Gnar Weasels

Colin Reuter aka @resultsboy - doing the results
10.  The race is designed and promoted by dudes who like to shred real trails – This means that you’re

not going to find a bunch of double-track or boring ski-slope climbs.

9.  The podium is a bunch of boulders in the woods – No need for anything fancy because rocks make everything more awesome.

Thom Parsons aka @BigBikesThom
aka Ultra Enduro Dyude
aka The Face of Dirtwire.Tv
8.  People come from all around to race it – Texas, California, Connecticut…  It’s just that awesome.

7.  If you are a mountain biker you will have an advantage over the fittest of the roadies – sure, they might stomp you into the ground at Winding Trails, but at Gnar Weasels, the ground grows teeth and devours them! (Gnom, Gnom, Gnom…)

6.  Weasels are cute – plus, Weasel races are known to be great fun in the cyclocross world… Night
 Weasels and Ice Weasels. Good and Good.

Photo by Ben Stephens
Thanks for making me look fast.
5.  Beer Marshalls – If you’re really thirsty and need some carbs on the fly, you might be lucky enough to encounter someone offering you a nice cold beer.  Oddly enough, nobody offered me a beer, but that might be because I looked really focused (which I was).

4.  Bacon – I don’t typically eat meat.  Nor did I have any during the race.  Nor was I offered any (probably for the same reason nobody offered me any beer), but I am told that there was a fine young man out there making sure that people would not go hungry.  I’m also told that you had to eat bacon to get beer… that might explain why I didn’t get offered beer. 

3.  Since I’m on the topic of food… TACO TRUCK – Where else can you find a taco truck out in the middle of the woods!?

2.  Gnar Weasels is the week before nationals (at least it was this year) – It turns out that the nationals course for 2013 is extremely rocky and technical.  Gnar Weasels is the ultimate primer for the rocks at Bear Creek in PA. 

Feed Zone - That might be a bowl of bacon on that table.
1.  Rocks, Roots, and GNAR – As I’ve already mentioned, this course requires some tech know-how. 
And riding rocks is my absolute favorite, so this makes Gnar Weasels number 1!

Now here's how the race played out for me:

With 7 elite women at the start line, I was looking forward to a competitive race, and Gnar Weasels and the rest of the ladies delivered.  The first five minutes pretty much predicted how the race would turn out.  Karen got the hole-shot while Mo followed close behind, and Ellen and I were back and forth for much of the first lap.  By the second lap, Ellen pulled away as I stopped for a bottle, and then the traffic started to get congested. 

Photo by Russ Campbell
Bike race PRO-tographer
Eventually I lost site of her as I had to continually battle against the traffic as men passed me and I passed them back.  With legs still tired from the Patapsco race less 7 than days before, I didn’t have much fight in me. 

I finished in a solid 4th within 5 minutes of the Karen, and ten minutes ahead of 5th.  I’ll check that one off as a success, and maybe next time, I'll rest in between races (yeah right).  

I hope you enjoyed the new format.  I’m also going to try this (here’s hoping the interactive features are compatible with blogger – if not, too bad, so sad):

And that should do it.  I’ve got to get to my MTB Nats race report some time before the next race.    

**Now that I've hit publish, it looks like that interactive thingy works... sweet.  Enjoy.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Patapsco - 100 Really REALLY Tough Miles in almost 13 hours

This. Race. Was. Epic.

The word epic is way overused these days. It should really only be used for events like the Patapsco100. 

Let me put it to you this way… the website said things like, “Feel. Your. Heart. Beat.” and “The Most Challenging Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Race on the planet” and “16000 feet of climbing in three laps” and “the pure pain epic” and “who would do this crazy event”…

You get the picture.

Just in case you don’t, there was also this, “All 100 mile racers who finish the course within the cutoff time of 15 hours (6am – 9pm) will receive a 2013 Patapsco 100 Finisher’s Jersey… it is not for anyone who finishes at 9:01pm. If you want it you are going to have to earn it.”   Obviously, these race promoters weren’t messing around.

I found out later that a huge portion of the our entry fees were going towards two different charities.  One was the race promoters' main cause diabetes via Adventures for the Cure; At the bottom of this post, I am copying the content of an email I received after the race that shows you just how awesome these guys are and where the money is going.  I am still blown away by the good that can come from an event like this.  

You might ask what would make me want to do such a thing.  Honestly?  I signed up on a whim.  I knew that I wasn’t racing that weekend, and I also knew I wanted to be.  Then a guy I made pals with during the NH100, Jeff, posted the link to bikereg saying that he was in.   Well, I scoped out the bikereg page and figured, what the heck, I may as well do it. 

Almost immediately, I started having doubts.  “Am I ready for this?”  “Have I trained enough?”  “I haven’t even been on a road ride over 40 miles this year.”  “16000 feet of elevation is like, 6000 more than NH100, and that was freakin’ hard!”  “I have to drive all the way to Maryland after work?” “Shit, that’s a holiday weekend.” “Oh crap, I have Skyler that weekend.” “Will my rapidly deteriorating fork last long enough?” “It’s only like four weeks away.” “Oh my God, nationals are two weeks after that… will I be recovered?”

Needless to say, I was a bit worried.  Everything seemed to come together though…  my brother came to Maryland with us, so Skyler hung out with him while I raced. 
If you finished two laps (100k) you got this.

There was no camping at the venue, so I used my AAA card to get a discounted room at the Best Western only ten minutes away, and they had a pool.  Skyler got to swim and hang out with her uncle all day.  We made it to the hotel with plenty of time to get settled, and enough time for me to try to get a good night’s sleep. 

The morning of the race, I got out of bed at 4:45.  I probably should have gotten up earlier to have more time to prepare, but it seems to be my thing lately to wait until the last possible minute for everything. 

I had Jared and Skyler drive me to the venue, and they helped me carry all of my gear over to the start/finish area.  What was really great about these race promoters is that they really made sure the racers had everything they could possibly need.  Not only did they supply water and food for us, but they had a tent for us to leave our coolers under so that our stuff didn’t have to bake in the sun all day.  I can’t tell you how great that was – it was a very very hot and humid day. 

As I mentioned, I was last minute and super unprepared for this event, so with 20 minutes until start time, I was attempting to make myself some breakfast.  With limited resources of my own, I made a nutella sandwich and ate it as fast as possible.  In fact, I made it to the start line just after the pre-race speech was given, so I had only moments before we were rolling out on the parade loop before starting off on the actual course. 

Up until that day, it looked like I was the only woman signed up for the 100.  I was pleased to find out that I wasn’t alone on the day of the race – a gal on singlespeed had arrived.  In our pre race chit chat, I found out that she hadn’t finished a 100 miler yet.  With all of the talk about how hard this one was going to be, I wondered what she was thinking riding a singlespeed if she wanted to finish.  As it turned out, the men’s 100 miler was won by a singlespeeder. 
NoFilm Photography: AFC Patapsco 100 (2013) &emdash; Ptap100

So, we rolled out nice and easy at the start, and I kept telling myself to take it easy.  Knowing that the course would be predominantly singletrack with an insane amount of climbing, I didn’t want to blow myself up at all.  So I sat back with some other guys and just felt it out. 

I realized quickly that the pack I’d settled with was going way to slow if I was going to finish the race before dark, and my goal was not to crush it but to be off the trails before dark.  Basically, I just wanted to finish and survive.  I ended up picking up the pace as soon as I had a chance and eventually found myself riding much of the first lap with a guy on a fat bike. 

The course was spectacular.  With over 80% singletrack, at no time did I find myself bored.  Most basic xc race courses don't have a fraction of the logs that this place had.  Not only that, but there were sections filled with small sharp rocks and tons of roots, and other sections where the rocks were laid out nicely over water crossings.  From what I'd heard, a lot of the trail had been newly built to accommodate this race, and boy did they build it right.

There were a lot of sections where you could really move while other sections took some serious time because you weren't quite sure what would come around the next bend.  I found it very similar to the sort of trails I ride as often as possible in New England.  With all of the good stuff, you had to be okay with the little that wasn't so good - for a short portion of trail, a very very steep and somewhat rocky area, we were required to get off our bikes an walk until the end of the trail because it was a designated hikers only area.  No problem, except that it was longer than I like to walk.  

Also on that first lap, I realized about two miles in that I hadn’t put any of my food in my pockets.  If you know anything about endurance racing, you know how important it is to be eating food all day whether you are hungry or not.  Going an hour without any calories will inevitably cause you to bonk at some point.  I calmly told myself it would be okay.  I knew that at mile 17.5, there’d be an aid station with food, and my drop bags would be there.  So I chugged my water and my GU Brew and kept
Delicious Homemade Energy Gel
 Here's the link to my recipe

At one point on the course, just before the 17.5 aid station, we had to ford a river.  I don’t mean some puny little stream crossing – there were plenty of those too, but I’m talking about a real river.  It was impossible to ride through it (especially if you value working parts on your bike), so each lap we had to get off of our bikes, pick them up, and wade through the water.  Sure, it felt wonderful with it being so hot out, but imagine every lap getting your chamois and your shoes saturated with river water.  By the time you dry out (not that you are ever dry because you are sweating profusely all day), you are getting wet again.  

Another interesting moment in the first lap came when the lead group of the 100k racers came up behind me.  They were hauling like a freight train, and I realized there was a familiar face in the pack.  Cheryl Sornson, NUE Series champ was right there with the guys.  I found out later that she was doing a two-person team with Chris Eatough – yeah, he’s the same guy with the Eatough Training Plans.  So my witty retort as Cheryl came cruising by was, “Are you Cheryl? [yep] Holy shit!”  I guess I was a little starstruck, and at the same time, I was a little nervous that I might have some serious competition.  No worries though…  as it turned out, there weren’t many people who would finish the 100 miles, and Cheryl wasn't out to do that... this week. 

So, the first lap went pretty well.  I was overly concerned that I’d taken it too slow because it took me just over 4 hours, and I wanted to keep the pace pretty steady on the next two laps to hopefully finish around 6pm.  I knew there was a fair chance I would slow down a bit though…  and I sure did.
NoFilm Photography: AFC Patapsco 100 (2013) &emdash; 2013 Patapsco 100
Around halfway through lap 2, I started to feel some serious fatigue set in.  It was blisteringly (is that a word??) hot in the sun, and fortunately, the singletrack kept us in the shade for a large portion of the day.  (Did I mention that this race was over 80% singletrack?) 

The climbs were starting to really hurt.  I just kept telling myself to keep it all going in a forward moving direction.  Somehow, that worked. 

Going into lap 3, a guy came up to me asking if I was still feeling strong, and as I opened a can of coke, he questioned me on how the heck I could handle drinking that…  Obviously he wasn’t in on the secret.  Coca Cola is a freakin’ lifeline when you’re endurance racing and you are on the verge of death.  I drank half the can and told him it was the perfect thing and that I only drink it during races.  He didn’t seem to believe me, but maybe someday he will try it for himself.  Coke also saved me at the final aid station… more on that shortly….

Also at that point, I had to take my contacts out.  I'd gotten dirt in my eye, and I couldn't see very well for most of the second lap.  I'd planned for the worst, so my glasses were in my bike bag.  Contacts out. Glasses on.  Good to go.  (If you've read any of my other race reports, I'm sure you are sick of hearing about my contact woes.)   

So, I set out on that last lap with a pocket full of my homemade chia seed/blackstrap molasses energy gel, some caffeine and sugar coursing through my veins, and hoped for the best.  That last lap was tough.  Really tough.  The worst part was being alone out there, but at the same time, that was also the best part.

I don’t remember much about that last lap before the water crossing except that I walked a lot of the climbs.  I remember the water crossing distinctly because when I got there, the course marshal told me that there was a storm coming in; he said that a lot of people were dropping out, and it was very likely I would get pulled.  He also told me that all of the volunteers were getting pulled off the course.  I politely told him that there was no way in hell I was stopping there and that I’d take my chances.

At that point, I was tired…  autopilot was on, and I just kept turning the pedals when I could and walking when I just couldn’t turn over the cranks.  I was elated when I finally reached the 17.5 aid station.  Again, I was strongly urged to stop because the storm was coming.  That being said, the volunteers worked overtime to get me fed and make sure my bike was running smooth before I set back out. 

Let me elaborate here a bit…  these people were getting me food, pouring me cold coke, cleaning my drive train, lubing my chain, filling my bottles, and forecasting the weather.    They. Were. Awesome.   They took such good care of me.  I went out for the loop that would bring me back through there (yeah, there was a section where we had two-way traffic going in and out of that aid station… more about that in a bit). 

Feeling a bazillion times better with a whole ton of sugar in me, I hammered the hell out of that loop.  There was no way I was quitting.  The only way I was coming off that course was if they forced me to.  As I came back to the aid station – possibly about an hour later, all of the tents were down and there were a lot of people there.  I assumed they were going to pull me, but when I asked them, they said I could keep rolling if I wanted to, but there wouldn’t be a place to get any water on the course.  No problem – in my effort to hammer the previous loop, I hadn’t had much to drink and still had plenty in my three bottles. 

Off I went… ten miles to go.  For the entire last lap, I’d been dreading what I knew was the last dirt climb of the race.  It was a steep long-ish hike-a-bike strewn with loose rocks.  Without a doubt, it was my least favorite part of the race. 

And the climbing didn’t end with that.  It kept going a bit into some singletrack before leading back into some swoopy fast stuff.  What a nice treat!  There was even a view through the woods of a huge waterfall.   The last portion of singletrack dumped us out onto a rail trail type of thing, which eventually lead to a short section of paved road…  then it was a turn back into the park where it all began. 

NoFilm Photography: AFC Patapsco 100 (2013) &emdash; Ptap100The route back to the park was paved, but it was not kind.  It was Straight. Up. Hill.   Man, did that hurt, but I was so stoked to be done that I was up out of the saddle and hammering.  I rode to that finish line like I hadn’t done anything all day. 

When I came through the line – which happened to be the pavilion where everyone was hanging out, I arrived to a whole crowd full of clapping.  It was awesome – just straight up awesome.   My time was just under 13 hours. 

Within seconds of taking my helmet off, Thom Parsons of  was there with his camera, and the helmet went right back on.  I am just vain enough that I couldn’t handle being on camera with a big line across my forehead.  I’m so glad that smells can’t be captured on camera because I smelled terrible.

I didn’t find out until a couple of days later, but there were only 13 finishers of the 100 mile race.  That’s a pretty large attrition rate.  For being the first-place woman, I scored a sweet payout of $400, and for being a finisher in general, I received an original 2013 Patapsco 100 Finisher’s Jersey.  Plus, there were cookies in my goody bag.  I practically inhaled them. 

The fun didn’t exactly stop there.  When I finally left the festivities, I got to yell out the window of the car to some of my fellow competitors who were in the process of making their way up that awful hill.  It felt good to cheer some people on, but it felt even better to be sitting on my ass in a car. 

Finally back at the hotel room, I couldn’t decide what to eat…  it was pathetic.  I finally settled on some greasy disgusting Chinese takeout and sent Jared and Skyler out to pick it up so I could shower.  If you’ve ever showered after being in the saddle for… well, for all day… then you know that it’s not all that great.  I was dirty beyond belief, but it hurt to get clean.  Everything hurt – right down to my pinky fingers. 

As soon as I was clean, I went directly to the bed, and that’s where I ate my dinner.  You might think that a person who had just done the hardest 100 miler known to the U.S. would sleep in the next day and maybe not get out of bed much…

…Well, I promised Skyler we would go to D.C., and that’s what we did.  We were up and on the road by 8 or so, and we walked just under 10 miles around the capital city.  It was awesome and awful all at the same time.  The heat was ridiculous so I’m really grateful for the exceptional air conditioning in all the Smithsonian museums.

We had a fantastic day, and Skyler was in bed and asleep as soon as we got back to the room at around 8pm that night.  And no, I didn’t sleep in the next day either.  We were up shortly after 5am and on the road for home.  I had Jared drive for a bit so I could study for my class, and when we got back to town, I got dressed and head off to the new job and didn’t get home until after 9:45pm…  It’s been exactly one week, and I’m still tired.  (But that didn’t stop me from racing yesterday… Gnar Weasels race report to come… must sleep first).  

Here's the email I received after the race.  It goes to show just how kickass the Adventures For a Cure team is:

Congratulations on finishing the Patapsco100!! We only had 13 people to do so. You are among the few. Every one of you should have already received a finisher's jersey. If you would like to purchase additional jerseys you may do so here:

[I took that link out.  Sorry, you are not a finisher.] 

We are giving you 2 days to purchase as many jerseys as you would like before we open this page to everyone else. We understand and agree that only true 'finishers' should have these jerseys, however, our charity mistakenly purchased too many jerseys and we need to offload the costs.

[I completely agree with their decision to do this. The money needs to go to the charities.]

Adventures For the Cure gives money that is crucial to our causes. Half the money raised from this event goes to supporting a diabetes camp for children ( where they learn to manage their diabetes while living active lifestyles. People with type 1 diabetes can die or suffer serious consequences of poor management. This camp gives these children one more tool/resource to help them live with their disease.
The other half of the money goes to Kupenda for the Children (, an American organization that assists children with disabilities in Kenya who are at risk of being killed, abused, or neglected due to a local belief that they are "cursed." This organization is literally saving and changing lives. I have personally seen children who could not walk, learn to run. I have seen children in despair, being kept in the closet of their homes because their parents were embarrassed to have a child with a disability, later living at a school with other children, smiling, laughing, and living!
When you know where our money goes, you can see how we cannot not sell these jerseys. Thanks for understanding!

Come join me next year.  I am definitely going to try to get back down there again.  

Oh yeah, and take a look at the Dirtwire.Tv Patapsco 100 Movie!