Friday, February 29, 2008

Harriman XC Ski

With six inches of fresh snow on the ground, Nate, Henry, Tom, Art and I went up to Harriamn for a XC ski. Conditions were not ideal, as there was a thin breakable crust with no broken track. We tracked out a 9 mile loop from Sebago lot. Good times and very sore legs for me by evening.

Tom negotiating the singletrack.

Art crossing the stream.

The boys at snack time.

Oh, yeah, don't follow Henry's line.



Welcome to my new blog. I hope to post some new journeys in life. In the mean time, I have archived some memorable old race reports and journals from the past five years. Thanks for reading. Now let's get outside and ride!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2003 National Championship Race

I never thought much of myself as being a great athlete. I was the typical middle child, that was middle of the road at everything I did, and cycling seemed to be no different. But, when I turned 40, things changed for me. As a back of the pack expert mountain bike racer, I showed up to a National Race and qualified to go to Worlds. This outstanding opportunity was the catalyst that would remold me as a racer. Still finishing in the middle of the pack, I saw that I was not that far off the leaders, and with a little work, could possibly win some day. I put together a three-year plan, and hoped to take a leave of absence from work in 2003 to focus on training, and be in full form entering the 45+ age group. ….. That was the plan anyway.

In the fall of 2002 my dad became ill, which caused some major changes in my priorities. During this time, family had become my only focus, and every day for the next seven months would be a fight for my dad’s life. Although knowing that many people go through the struggle of loosing their loved ones, nothing I could do could make this time seem any easier. This was probably the most difficult and consuming thing I had ever been through.

He passed away in May, and I did finally find the strength to get back on the bike. I decided not to give up on my goal, but lower my expectations of reaching it, as I had not been riding much. With some luck perhaps I could catch back up, I thought. Unfortunately, little things seemed to go wrong on every ride, and each time, I lowered my expectations another degree. The clock was ticking away, the race season was nearly here, and I did not feel ready. I would have two chances to test myself at the national level before committing to the trip to Durango Colorado for the National Championship race.

The Test:
Ready or not, Art, Willy and I set off for Snowshoe, WV for the first of the National Races where I would have a chance to test myself in the new age group. On the drive down I noticed road barricades and swollen rivers along the way. The thought of a wet race haunted me. I was beginning to feel that bad luck was following me around, or perhaps I was the bad luck.

We arrived and took a lap on the course. It was a mess and so was my head. I certainly did not have the confidence going into the season that I was hoping for. On lap two, Art went down and broke his ankle. As we sat in the hospital, thoughts of doubt and anxiety filled my head. Willy and I were ready to go home if surgery was needed, but Art’s broken bone was not too bad, and he was put into a cast and released with a choice of percocet or tequila. He had his tequila that night, and I washed our bikes while chatting with Michael Broderick at the very busy bike wash. Things were looking ok.

Race day: 30 minutes before my start, the skies turned black, thunder rumbled and downpours engulfed the resort. I took cover under an overhang, and as I waited, I began to think of all the slippery roots and mud on course and the little confidence I had, began to slip away. Here I was at this crucial point in my racing, and all I wanted to do was cry. An hour later, when the thunder let up enough to start the race, I reluctantly took the start line.

The gun went off, and as I mounted, my saddle and shorts were so wet, that I snagged my shorts and had to dab to remount. I snagged a second time and had to completely maneuver to get on the saddle. All this nonsense put me behind the entire pack. I tried to move up, but they were on pavement and I was in deep sticky mud. I was able to mash through some and get an inside line to the turn that gave me a better placement into the descent. Now I had pre-ridden this descent and it rode fine then, but it looked nothing like that now after a downpour and 200 riders ripped it up. I steadied a bit because there was a sweeping turn on the bottom. Just then I noticed someone in pink coming around me on the inside and starting to push into me. This woman could not hold her line and pushed me right off the course through the tape, and now I was standing on a ski slope, downhill from the trail watching the last rider disappear.

Back onto the jeep trail, I sprinted up to last rider, and went to pass her by crossing the grassy middle spot to get to the other track. Just then I caught a glimpse of a smooth log running parallel to the track. “This is not good,” I thought. I try to hop it, so I don’t take her out. It works, but not enough room to straighten out and I crash into an embankment full of pine branches. A little frustrated, I take a deep breath and get back on my bike. I finally catch up to the group, and in one uphill section I pass all but the woman in pink. About a quarter mile down the trail, I finally catch up to her and she and a bunch of men are off walking around a muck hole. There is a line open but it’s running water with rocks peeking out, and I ride it. Voila, I’m by easily, and pass them all. “Be like water” is now my mantra.

The next section was off camber, rooty, un-rideable, almost un-walkable deep clay. Pink passes me back on foot. I finally pass her back later on the first of the big climbs, but it is not long before I bury my front wheel into a bottomless mud hole that nearly swallows me completely. I pick my black self up and find my bike underwater, but pink is already past and quickly disappears. I chase up a series of long climbs, but she is nowhere in sight. By the top, Art gives me a “C’mon hold your place” and I realize pink must be way ahead. I get a little discouraged, but forge ahead into the next lap regardless.

At several points, I thought I saw a speck of pink way ahead, but never seemed to be able to bridge up. I seemed to be riding much better on the second lap, but I did not see anyone at all. This “nowhere land” feeling is very discouraging and although I kept pedaling, I began to give up in my heart. If I was riding well, why couldn’t I catch anyone? I just kept turning the pedals. Finally, I exited the woods into the open, and there in front of me was a huge line of women rounding the lake to start the climb back up to the finish. I scanned the line and found the pink jersey. Recharged from my find, I passed half dozen women not in my class. I could see the look of defeat on each one of them as they prepared for the final set of climbs. This only made me ride harder. By the first pitch, I was on pinks’ wheel. This time I steadied and counted to ten, and then I passed her, and never let up until the finish.

Climbing on top of the podium, I felt really accomplished that day, but was still uncertain if the trip to Colorado was worth it, because now Art had a broken ankle. The following weekend, I won Mt Snow by more than 10 minutes and all my friends including Art, told me I must go.

National Championship Race:
The staging area was overcrowded and hectic, and we never got our legs marked. Legs are usually marked so that racers in a mass start know whom they are racing against. They called us to the line and then asked us to step aside for the older men. By the time I finally lined up for real, I was on woodchips and most the ladies were on pavement. Needless to say, I did not get a great start, and worked a little too hard to catch up on the first climb. The elevation at the base was about 8900’ and I could really feel it at that point. A few women actually passed me back, but I did not think they were in my age group.

I got a little surge of energy as I passed through the village with all the spectators cheering, and could see the riders getting pushed back towards me as they started up the ski slope. This was no ordinary ski slope. This was truly sick. It was as steep as one could ride, quarter mile long and then imagine doing it at 9000’. I took a glance up, and not a single rider was on their bike. Keep in mind that this is only the women over 40 and the back half of the men over 50 that I am looking at. I must say that I was pretty possessed that day. Gasping for air, I managed to stay on the bike all the way up plus up the next 3 miles to the top. The climbing out in these mountains is bigger than anything a New Jerseyite could imagine!

The rest of the race was good, but for the most part, it was uneventful. I felt really strong and I was riding like I wanted to win. I rode with a few of the older men for a while. One wore a world champion jersey. These guys were so supportive, and encouraged me a lot. The climb was actually easier the second time around, and I still had no idea who was in my class, or how I did. I know I finished ahead of a bunch of people that usually beat me, but I had to wait for results to be posted to find out that I had won.

Although it felt really good getting my Champion Jersey that day, I never had that excitement when I crossed the finish line. And somehow, the win seemed a little bittersweet because I could not share it with my dad. Looking back at it now, I see the road I had taken was filled with many experiences, both good and bad, and I am very thankful for having such supportive friends in this sport, to get me through these times. Mountain bikers are amazing people. I am not sure whether mountain biking attracts great people, or makes great people, but they certainly were a part of me winning that day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

2006 Where is Spring?

As winter starts to loosen it’s long held hold on the forest, most of us mountain bikers begin what seems like an eternal wait for the first signs of spring. You start to fantasize about what the wind would feel like on your bare legs and what the sun would feel like on your face while whooshing down the trail.

OK, It is March 20th, the first day of spring, Right? Where is spring? Bitter cold winds cut my neck that I can barely turn as I get into my car because of this stiff neck I have from an 85 mile frigid road ride the day before. No, this was not a Kris Weber ride, more like the get even with Kris ride. There is no way I plan to get back on a road bike any time soon.

Several days pass, my neck feeling a bit better, I decide to try a mountain bike ride. By the time I get to the park, it is feeling warm, and I am thinking, I may not need my tights. When I get out of the car, a bug lands on me. Oh yes, at last they are alive! If a bug has hatched or defrosted, then it must be spring! So shorts it is.

A few miles into the single-track, a butterfly floats by. I don’t know how he got here so fast, but what a sight. I think it was a tiger tail swallow. He also beat me to the top of the hill, which should tell you something about my fitness, or lack of it, but who cares about that now. It’s spring! As I ride past the swamp, I hear the peepers in full song. Spring IS here for sure.

Now, I’m not sure if it was the riding that helped or just the signs of spring, but I hardly even noticed my stiff neck on the ride. Yeah, that’s what I love best about mountain biking. It exorcises any pains or worries out and leaves the happy kid within.

Happy spring to all!

2005 Stewart Rescue

It’s always nice to schedule some fun rides in between the races. So, when I got home from Deer Valley, I was so excited to be invited by Frank to ride with the cretins at Stewart. I did not know the trails there, so having a guide was nice.

It was a hot, steamy and humid day. Frank would lead, followed by Art, Henry then me. About 5 miles into the ride I heard Art cursing in a tone that 23 years of experience told me that he had hurt himself. All I could think of was that he had fallen on his collarbone that he had broken just 8 weeks prior. Nope, it was his hip. His front tire had just washed out suddenly on a loose turn, landing him smack on his hip with no time to even get the foot out.

It looked like Art could not put any weight on the leg nor sit on the saddle of the bike. After reviewing the situation, we attempted to walk Art out with his arms draped over our necks like a pair of crutches, but it was slow going. We were about ¾ mile into a single-track and then another mile or two back to the parking lot on a gated park road. So, Henry decided to call 911 to see if we could get the gate unlocked to get our vehicle in to shorten the trip.

Frank went back to the parking lot to meet the EMT’s that would unlock the gate. We thought they may have some ideas or could help us get Art out. Right? No, wrong! They were not prepared in any way for a woods rescue and we wondered if we might have to go back and help them get out when we were done. They did call the fire dept., which sent a truck with sirens screaming, and as it passed by we realized there was another road closer. So Henry went exploring and found a road outside the park less than ¼ mile away down an electrical high-tension power line.

By this time, the EMT’s were sweating heavily and bleeding from walking near brambles. They checked Art and determined that he was an athlete with excellent blood pressure and may have dislocated his hip. Neither the EMT’s nor the fire dept had a stokes-basket. Their next choice was to dispatch a helicopter in hopes that they might have a stokes-basket and someone capable of carrying one. The chopper would have to land near the high-tension wires, which seemed insane. Although everyone was sure of what they could NOT do, no one seemed to be able to know what TO do.

At that time, I made a decision. Art could breath, was not in shock, was not bleeding or suffering from back and neck pain, he had one good leg and strong arms and needed to get to the road. I turned to Art and said “are you ready to try to walk out?”. He and Henry answered, “ let’s go”. We helped Art up and step-by-step we walked him out on one leg and he used us as crutches. By that time a Park Ranger in a truck met us part way to shorten the trip. Strangely enough, the park was never called. He just heard about the situation on his scanner. I generally keep the park phone # on my cell phone, but I rarely ride in this park district.

As soon as we got to the road, a helicopter appeared overhead and we told the ranger, no thanks. I then drove Art to the hospital near our home, where it was determined that he had broken his hip and needed surgery. There were options in treatment and thankfully his usual orthopedic surgeon that knew his history did the surgery. Things like this always make you think about whether you are doing the right thing, but I still feel that mountain biking is one of the best things in my life. The benefits of being a mountain biker always outweigh the few breaks and scrapes that may occur. Even something like learning how to self-rescue is a resourceful lesson to have experienced.

Friday, February 22, 2008

2006 NMBS Snowmass Co

Art and I drove into Crested Butte, and things seemed a bit dismal driving into town in a heavy rain. I was real glad to be able to schedule a few days there and leave my heart rate monitor off to enjoy some low key riding and have some margaritas afterwards.

I was happy to see Red Lady Mountain standing against a crystal blue sky the next morning. So it seemed a perfect day to ride 401 trail. Along the way we met some east coast guys that were acclimating for Leadville 100. We enjoyed chatting with the fellow mountain bikers along the beautiful valley on our way toward the trailhead. Once on the trail, we were zipping away amongst the mountains and wild flowers. A truly awesome trail! Every time I ride it, there are different flowers in bloom, and each time it is incredible to be there in the mountains. We managed to get back just before it rained.

With wet trails and cattle making their way up the mountains in the late season, trail choices were limited at CB, but a few days later it dried out nicely and we had a super fun ride on Upper, Upper/Upper, and Green Lake. Besides awesome trails, the mushrooms were incredible! Some were red with white dots like in a fairy tale. It was a great time in CB, but now it was time to move on and get set for our next race.

Snowmass Short track Race – At first pre-ride, the course seemed a bit rough, and with the high altitude, I had no great expectations, but was just looking for a pre-race warm-up. I used my usual conservative start to avoid pile-ups. and that put me dead last off the start. By the start of the third lap, I had passed three already, all on the climb or right after. I figured out a formula and stuck to it. Spin the flat, slower cadence on the climb to recover heart rate slightly, mash the rough section saving nothing, and smooth with no brakes to rest on the descent. It seemed to work for me, and I passed enough women to finish 9th, my best ST of the season.

Snowmass Cross country race – If you have been following any of my racing you will notice a re-occurring theme this year – rain! Yep, rain again, and the XC course became quite slick. Steep climbs became walkers and the descents were slide and steer with your butt. Once again, I was last starting, but it was only a matter of time before my east coast skills moved me ahead. I still am amazed how well my technical riding was that day. I rode every descent and never fell. Yet my legs and fitness were nowhere to be found that day. I could climb the technical ups well, and did stay on for that long never ending one, but it seemed as if I were barely moving. At the end of my first 13 mile lap, I could barely bring myself through the start/finish- and I still had another lap. I wanted to quit so badly, but did not even allow that thought to develop. It became a race against the mountain and when I finally finished I had nothing left. It was by far the hardest race all year, and I commend all the expert women that finished so far ahead of me that day. It was quite a day!

2006 NMBS Brian Head Ut

I hadn’t been to Vegas since my 8th birthday, and I hate to admit it, but that was 40 years ago. So this time I only took the view from the airport and the highway. It was 101 degrees (but dry) as Art and I made our way north towards southern Utah. The flashy hotel billboards eventually gave way to retirement community billboards and 3 hours later we pulled off at the Parowan exit where the car thermometer now read 71 degrees. We purchased our groceries for the week and headed 12 miles up the mountain to Brianhead Resort where the temp was a brisk 51 degrees. We put together our bikes and went to bed dreaming of the Utah single-track we hoped to find the next day.

Since Brianhead sat at 10,000 feet elevation, we decided to do our sightseeing on an acclimation day. We drove to Bryce Canyon to take in the sights and it was truly spectacular! It is certainly something everyone should see once. We hiked around the rim for about a mile and had a picnic lunch at the rim. It was probably the most scenic meal I have ever experienced! On the way home we stopped at Red Canyon for a ride on the Thunder Mt Trail, which was slightly lower elevation. The trail had just enough technical to keep us busy, but not to over tax our systems too soon. The scenery, the colors and the rock formations were out of this world. We did get caught in a thunderstorm, but as quick as it came, it was gone. It was a perfect first ride day of the trip.

Course inspection – The cool part about the XC course at Brianhead is that it is a one big 27-mile loop. Although a little disappointing to start on pavement, I was sucking wind so bad from the elevation, that the pavement seemed quite acceptable at that time.. The climbs and descents were sustained, and it was pretty discouraging to think about racing at this altitude. I had to stop several times to catch my breath on one steep climb, which is something I don’t usually have to do. Finally we reached some dark slimy single-track and by this time I had given up, and was not making the effort to ride stuff. I balked at a simple downhill, and had to go back to try it again. By the time I went back, a pro women came by, so I slipped in behind her. Thankfully I felt enough encouragement to be able to follow a woman’s line. I ended up getting sandwiched in between two pros. I looked for a place to pull off, but it was so narrow and demanding. The technical began to build and before I could find an out, I was looking for lines and riding over rocks and through mud one after another. I guess I just needed a slap in the face to get my low self-esteemed head straightened out. From here on, I rode sure. Boy, was I glad, because the rest of the course was so much fun. We ended up taking 4 hours to do that lap. It’s funny, but sometimes just pre riding the course can be like a race in itself.

Come race day, the promoters cut down my race to a short 16-mile loop. I was actually relieved. The pros would go off an hour before, in hopes that they finish the extra 11 miles before the older experts got to the merge point. With the high altitude, I didn’t have much expectations of being competitive climbing, but after I settled in, I felt good and climbed my way into third position, just ahead of a woman that usually beats me. It was cool to start with Art. I was able to keep him in sight on the opening 4-mile climb.

As I entered the merge to the long loop, I was surprised to find out that I was right in front of the lead pro women and had to get out of the way in a hurry. The next few pro women that came by were very spread out, which made me feel as if I was doing better than I expected. By the time I arrived at the dark slimy single-track, I had reeled in my second place expert woman, and noticed she was walking the technical stuff. Although, I was still riding, I could not go much faster than her because it was so technical. Eventually she slipped and was blocking the trail. I was able to ride onto a big flat rock on the side of the trail and find a great line to pass without even a dab. As I continued, the pro women continued to come by, and I found I was hanging with some of them for a bit. It was pretty cool to pretend being a pro for a day.

By the last climb I was gassed and gasping for breath. I had more than a moment of mental weakness and the other women passed me back a few hundred feet before the finish. I was kicking myself for not trying to play with my cadence or something on the last climb. But that’s behind me now and I can only learn from what I did or did not do.

2006 Chain Stretcher

Race day, 6:00 a.m.- I am awakened to the sound of pouring rain. Dejavu for like the 5th time this year. Am I the jinx?? Anyway, I must get up and go to pick up the banners for the Ringwood race. I bring my bike just incase it clears up. I arrive and the Beginners are already out there rippin it up. I have to hand it to the promoters for cutting the course down from 8 to 6 miles. Superb choice. Racers came in very happy and the most technical section of trails were omitted and kept off limits.

Next the sports went off. They too started in the rain, but it eventually let up and Jess and Wendi put in some awesome fast racing in tough conditions with a 1st and 2nd place finish in their classes. I am proud to be from NJ where the ladies can handle these tough conditions and challenging terrain. You girls rock!

The rain stopped, I had no excuse but had to go out and at least try to race. I could always pull out at any time. Just on a second thought, I went back to my car and grabbed a bottle of Powerbar drink, since I had not eaten much. At the start, all of us single-speeders were seeded in the last of 4 groups. Being the only women, I was dropped instantly.

By the top of Ned’s lung, I had bridged up to the first racer, and by the single-track I had already passed one. The trails and rocks looked wet and I rode with caution. Too much caution probably. I lost my footing while swinging my leg over the bike to dismount and slammed all my weight into a rock with my palm. Ouch! I had a good stinger going til late that night. But with out much more than a blink, I was done with a lap, and wore a big smile on my face, ready for more.

The course was really fun for ss. All the sustained climbs were in the start, and then wooohooo roller coaster to the start/finish. I’m not sure if I just got loosened up or the trails got better, but my third lap was my best, reeling in a few of the men before I finished. I was greeted by more smiling faces at the finish, and could you believe the sun was shinning! What a day. This is certainly one of the best local races in this area. Can’t wait to get back there to ride it again.

2006 NMBS Fontana Ca

The 2006 racing season started off for me at #1 NMBS race at Fontana, Ca. It was great to hang with Tonya and meet new mtbchick, Carolyn Popovic. The race seemed a bit out of place in a suburban area, but once off the town park area, the trails were quite nice. There was plenty of single-track lined with wild flowers and little lizards ran out on the trails in front of me. Riding at speed on a very narrow trail, I accidentally ran over a small rattlesnake, but he was gone on the next lap, so I think he was ok.

The short track was first on Friday. Not only was this my first real race of the season, but I had only done a few intense training rides going into this and was not yet comfortable riding in a pack. I impressed myself with a good start off the line. After all, I am twice as old as most of my competition. I was able to avoid the pile-ups on the first few turns, but fell to the back with my conservative approach. This is something I will need to work on, if I want to be good at short track. I managed to stay in the whole time without getting lapped. This course was one of the best short track courses I have ever ridden or watched. It had a steep climb, single-track and a technical descent. The pros got to go up the MX course. That looked like so much fun! A double thumbs up to the promoters for putting together such a great short track course!

The descents on the XC course had deteriorated quite a bit by the time the expert race went off. The course utilized the terrain well including several aqueducts. While pre-riding an aqueduct, I was surprised to have several pro men stop to help me, one of which was Jeremiah Bishop. Wow, it is so great to be part of sport that offers this type of passion. I could tell there was a lot of positive energy out there to start off the season. Well, my race went fine, finishing 3rd in my age group. My technical riding was good, as I did more than usual mountain biking over the winter, but my fitness was nowhere near where it should be yet. So, I need to get in some more intense road riding, which unfortunately is not as fun.

2005 NMBS Mt Snow

After slogging through all the mud at Snowshoe, I can’t tell you how happy I was to arrive at Mt Snow and to hear that it was dry. I did a quick tire swap on arrival and had a great pre ride on the XC course. It was quite enjoyable just hanging out in the cool crisp Vermont air and not have to scrape mud off everything.

Short Track:
This year I decided to try my hand in the Short Track race, something that was rather new to me. Not being a road racer, I had no real expectations of how I would do or even if I was capable of being competitive among the younger girls. It was cool to all line up, ages 13 – 55, me being at the older end at 47. The start was real fast and it seemed like everyone came by me in the first 100 feet. I held my ground on the climb but took the first down hill turn way too hot and lost time trying correct. On the next lap I was able to make a pass on the climb but had to recover on the downhill and voila… the turn on the bottom was much smoother and faster. So that became my plan for each lap and it paid off as I passed a few more ladies on the climb during other laps. One thing that I love about racing at Mt Snow is that there are so many local NJ/NY racers there to cheer you on. The pace was so fast that I couldn’t see anyone in the crowds, but I heard my name all the way around the course. I really appreciate all the support from friends. You guys were great! It made the race so much fun! I felt strong and finished 8th, which is much better than I ever imagined.

Cross Country:
Well, so much for the dry conditions as it started to rain 45 minutes before the start of my cross-country race. Oh yes, those slippery, wet roots DO haunt me every year. So I finished my warm up a little early but didn’t want to stand around getting nervous. I was passing the dirt jump area that seemed to be a magnet for little kids and I just turned in and railed a berm and took some tiny jumps. A little girl riding across the field screamed out to her mom “ look, a big kid ”. So now you have my thought for the race: Even 47-year-old kids, and especially mtbchicks like to have fun on their bikes. The start was a little hectic and I could only identify one other woman in my class. So as far as I was concerned, it was me her and the roots. As it turned out, I handled the roots quite well, thanks to my Magura disc brakes. I finished strong enough to win my class and a sprint at the finish with someone not even in my class. Just having fun, right? Thank you Tonya and mtbchicks for reminding me to have fun playing on the bike. I really must do it more often.

2005 Chain Stretcher

Racing in NY/NJ is still in full force for 05! Yesterday the H2H series took a stop at Blue Mt for the ‘Chain Stretcher” race. The race was held in the very woods that the Legend of Sleepy Hollow were to have taken place, and although I did not see any headless horsemen, I did see many happy mountain bikers and a lot of broken chains. Race properly named!

This race was particularly significant to me as it took me down on the pre ride last year when I broke my thumb. I had yet to go back, so I really felt like I had to do a pre ride the day before to get things straight in my head before the race. There was a slight dejavu when I met the same people in the parking lot as last year, but all went great on the course that day for the pre ride.

Call me crazy, but I decided to race singlespeed the next day. The course was probably a little too hilly for me on a ss, and pretty technical also, but I did it anyway. I looked at it as a challenge. The singlespeed thing has little to do with any macho stuff but more about transforming my attitude. Instead of steadying or pacing one’s self, it’s an all out and get out of my way, animal instinct thing.

The race was really tough, and as it turned out, my cranks ended up loosening up and throwing my chain off a lot. I did not really know what was wrong, but it was making a racket. Even with all that, I was having a great time. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your whole body into it and I didn’t need to announce myself on any of the climbs as my crickety, cranky, cranks were speaking loud for me. It was gratifying to pass a few of the men, and finish with a respectable time.

It was a great day and an awesome fun race. I can’t believe how many people commented on how fun the course was, even people who DNF’d. Kudos to the WMBA for putting together a great race! Thanks to Tahir and Geoff from Campmor for your extended neutral support including my cranks afterwards!! You guys were great and I know you got little rest as this course was eating bikes alive!

2005 NMBS Snowshoe

If you have ever been to Snowshoe WV and thought it was muddy, then imagine it even muddier. Yes, I have been to every National at Snowshoe and this year was mud-toughest. It rained for most of the marathon on Thursday and then the mud tacked up just enough to be like peanut butter for the XC events. Deeper, tackier mud that could pick up moss, ferns, sticks and even rocks 4 inches in diameter. That stuff could really lock your tires up!

After my pre ride, I switched to my old faithful narrow Hutchinson Mosquitoes and they worked great on race day. There was a very light turn out for the XC events and with the history of mud on this course, I can sort of understand why. Being that there are few Nationals on the east coast, I always eagerly attend. I also find this race to be a superb test of one’s perseverance and I have made it a tradition to use it as a disciplined part of my mental training each year.

I can’t say that the race was too much different than other years. The XC trails there, do not seem to be well designed or maintained considering the climate, and you end up being off your bike for way too much of the course. But then, there is something to be said about mental toughness. The kind that keeps you going and makes you ride harder when you do get back on your bike, and that is what I strive for each year at this event.

I really feel for the less experienced riders that may get discouraged and that is why my husband, Art started his drumming tradition on the climb at this race back in 2001. He wanted to help keep the spirits up of all the beginner and sport racers that cheered for us earlier that day. He used pots and pans that year, but since then, real drums have been found, borrowed and purchased. This year he was there in banging force. With his recently broken hip, he strapped all the drums and his cane (equipped with Oury grip handle) onto a BOB trailer and rode to the hill. His weak leg could barely get him back up the hill when he was done. He rode right through the finish line for some well-deserved acknowledgement. It was sort of nice to know that he got to ride through the finish line, even if he wasn’t able to race. I wish I was there to see it.

2005 Long Island Accidental Road Century

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and once again I found myself venturing off to the seaside to spend the weekend with my family in the sun. The plan was to do 70 mile tandem road ride with my husband, Art on Sunday. This ride would include: a 5:30 a.m. wake up, a 15 mile time trial to catch an early ferry to Shelter Island, a 25 mile circuit on Shelter Island with the Bike Hampton Club, and then a loop around Peconic Bay.

I was a little cranky with the early start time, but had totally forgotten about that by mile three. I think we easily averaged over 19mph because we were standing at the south ferry dock early, and had a chance to enjoy the peaceful moments of the early morning, including watching the sun emerge out of the fog and begin to sparkle on the water. Before long, the brightly colored jerseys appeared on the incoming ferry, and we were joined with our group.

We quickly became very popular in the group after taking a few strong pulls. Those tandems can haul! Afterwards, we were convinced to join the group for breakfast at the bike shop, and although we didn’t know at the time, we were really going to need that breakfast. We continued on with the longer leg of the loop which would take us all around Peconic Bay. Shortly in to it, Art noticed our mileage was already at 70, and asked if we were almost home. Ooops, silly me had forgotten to figure in the 25-mile loop on Shelter into the planned mileage. So now we were looking at riding close to 100 miles.

Well, it was a beautiful day, and pretty flat. Amazingly, it was easier than I would have thought. Although I was getting sick of having to ask permission to stop pedaling so I could readjust my bottom and stretch during those long 97 miles, I’m glad I got to share it with someone special to me.

Riding a tandem is great way for two riders of different levels to share in the same ride. The two riders levels sort of meet in between. Besides being pretty cool, it's a good test of trust, communication, patience and one's ability to adapt.

2005 Running of the Dogs

April in New Jersey never seems to come soon enough, and this year the weather has been wonderful. Spring is always filled with new things, and this year I decided to try something totally new, racing single-speed.

Only logging a few hours at single-speeding, I entered the Running of the Dogs, a local 3-4 hour race (like 24 hour, but without 20 hours). The course was rolling with lots of short steep ups and downs. Well, on a single speed they sure felt steep to me. On top of being really cool to line up at the start with all single speed guys, it was an awesome experience that seemed to bring out the best in me. It forced me lay off the brakes and to eek all I could out of the downhills (which is NOT my strength) and to still climb with all I had left.

The last few laps were tough, as I began to tire. There was one hill that I could not climb, that was guarded by a squadron of vultures. “Could they be waiting for me” I thought, ha, ha. .... NOT! ....Soon I was passing all sorts of cramping racers. I used the Powerbar Endurance drink, and with all that mashing up hill, not a single cramp!! By that point I felt pretty good and was able to complete 6 super fun laps, which placed me as the top solo female of the day. I feel good to already have two successful races under my belt this year, as I generally do not get started racing before May.