Monday, July 27, 2015

Wilderness 101 Race Report - the Details

I seldom post to the blog anymore, but some things are post-worthy like riding 100 miles on a mountain bike.  The Wilderness 101 is staged in tiny Coburn, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Bald Eagle state forest.   The race loops 100 miles from there, through Rothrock state forest, and back through Bald Eagle state forest ending where it started.    Here’s a recount of the ride and what it was like for me:

The start to 1st Aid station – 20 miles:   To be in a pack of 200 or so riders embarking on a 100 mile adventure is a pretty incredible feeling. We were rolling on road for two miles at about 15-17 mph all in one big group.  Guys, girls, old and young, pros and weekend warriors, all together on mountain bikes cruising along.  Then a left turn started us up the first climb that broke up the pack.  Leaders took off, those just wanted to finish hung back, and a huge group of tweeners made up the middle.  Donna and I led the hanging-back group (we think… you never turn around and really look).    At the top of Sieglerville/Millheim road, we made a right and starting some cruising on rolling fire road.  Of course after every climb and flat is a downhill which led us to Decker Valley road, under 22/322, then onto Crowfield fire road for more cruising into Penn Roosevelt State Park to the first Aid Station.   Donna was good with hydration/nutrition an opted not to stop except to pee.  I refilled my camelback and got some Heed in my water bottle. 

Aid Station 1 to Aid Station 2 – 40 miles in:  From the Aid Station, we started to climb up to Thickhead Mtn Rd to another great downhill, Detweiler.  We both were feeling pretty good and flipped each other the bird as we passed each other (Brett told us to do that J).  This downhill was fairly smooth with little rocks.  The whole day was ups and downs and after the Detweiler, we climbed another fireroad toward the first Singletrack of the day, Longberger.  This trail had three narrow bridges which we walked.  I face planted in one of the rock gardens and did not ride the rock garden that folks were sitting at to watch.  After the singletrack, we cruised on Laurel Run fireroad into Aid Station 2.  Donna and I were having a blast working with each other in our twosome paceline.  We hit Aid Station 2 ahead of schedule in under 4 hours.  So were averaging over 10 mph at this point. 

Aid Station 2 to Aid Station 3 – 60ish miles in:   We both were still feeling pretty good.  From here, the climbing really began.  Greenlee fireroad was a bear to climb and took forever.   That was followed by Croyle Run downhill, rocky singletrack.  And then came another climb, what folks call the hike-a-bike – Alan Seeger road.  Yup, I was walking the top of this one but Donna road the entire thing.   Here’s where I get confused on trail names and where we were because the course was changed.  Donna and I split up after Alan Seeger, but met again at Aid Station 3.   I was starting to feel “weird.”  She said, just keep eating and drinking.    I was thinking Alan Seeger was after Aid Station 3, but I can’t recall.  Anywhos… Donna and I split after one of the climbs leading into Ruff Gap trail (very steep, rocky downhill) and we didn’t see each other after that.    She said she was feeling really good on all the singletrack and finished in a great time of 11 hrs and 58 minutes.   Me?  Read on:

Aid Station 3 to Aid Station 4 – 74 miles in:  Here’s where most of the singletrack was.   I was feeling bad here.  Everything was starting to hurt.  My hands, my wrists, I was sort of cramping.  My neck hurt and I had to stretch it every now and then.  I was getting off my bike a lot to give my hands/wrists a break and it hurt to lift my leg over the bike seat.  I was not having fun.  I was ready to quit…. But I couldn’t!  It was nothing but singletrack for many of the next 14 miles and not a person around to ask for a ride back.  I guess that was a blessing in disguise.  I walked almost all the singletrack.  The rocks hurt.  I was cussing them.  And the trails were very rocky.  Sassa-something was rocky and Beautiful trail wasn’t so pretty to me. In fact, that’s the one that I was really cussing on the sloped, side-of-the-mountain, rocky, downhill.  Grrrrr… I was saying.  Several people passed me at this point including a girl that I thought was in my age group (she was) and it was really hard to get off the trail on the side of a mountain.  I was miserable.  I cried.  At the end of the trail was more fireroad climbing which at this point I was walking almost everything because I was in a snit and determined to quit.  Someone drove by and stopped and said, “Are you ok?  I’d give you a ride but I’m all filled up.”  I said, “I’ll keep struggling on.”  He said Aid Station 4 wasn’t far.  Another blessing in disguise.  I hit Aid Station 4 with the thought in my head I’m quitting.   I asked the guy what mile it was and what were the trails like and anymore climbing other than Stillhouse.  He didn’t know (Aid Station 4 wasn’t as good as the first 3).  Something came over me and I started filling my camelback, eating, and got on the bike to continue.  It was strange, but I decided to finish after making up my mind I was quitting. 

Aid Station 4 to Aid Station 5 – 89 miles in:   I walked most of Stillhouse road, as were several other folks at this point.  At the bridge, (out – had to cross steel girders or go down to the creek – I crossed the creek), I met up with the girl that passed me and low and behold, a second wind came over me and I started riding…with vengeance.    I passed her on a climb (yes was riding now!) and didn’t look back.   I believe it was the thought that I was going to finish and the end was near.   There was one more piece of single track that I was praying wasn’t rocky and it wasn’t.  But little did I know that Panther Run road would be one of the rockiest, long, downhills of the day and I was praying for it to end and SOON.  The jarring was incredibly painful.  Some guy passed me on a fat bike and I was thinking how nice that ride must be in rocks.   When Poe Paddy came in sight along with Aid Station 5, there was a glimmer of hope and excitement that the end was near. 

Aid Station 5 to the End:  The gal in my age group came into the aid station just behind me.  While she was refilling, I asked how far and they said 6 miles.  And this cute little kid said, “But it’s real easy, you just cross the creek and ride a flat trail to the end.”  Music to my ears… I can do that without any water refills or food.  So I hopped on the bike and headed to the creek.  The guy that was crossing the creek with me said, “that’s not a creek… it’s a river.”  I slipped at one point and got soaked, but made it across.  Bike shoes on slippery rocks don’t mix.  Once on the other side, we were on smooth, old rail trail and I was in high gear at this point.  I just wanted to finish and was pushing to get it over with.  

Finish: 12 hrs. and 51 minutes.  Happy to finish and vowing to never, ever do it again.  Hard, hard, hard.  Super-happy with the fitness I gained, but dang it takes a ton of time and commitment to train and be ready for this thing.     Aid stations and volunteers were awesome (except aid station 4).  Can’t say I was too happy to make podium, but the organizer gave the awards before the 2nd and 3rd place girls came in so no recognition for the old gals except that first place girl.    No, I really don’t think I’ll ever do it again.



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Defining Racing

The general rule of thumb for any fastest-person-wins event is that it’s a race.  It’s organized, it’s timed, and the fastest people win, so what else could it be?  In the cycling world, riders put in long, hard hours in the saddle to prepare themselves to endure distances at high heart rates to better their chances to win that race.   And those that work the hardest and have the genes that make them a perfect cyclist usually do.  Yet, there’s another group of cyclists out there that put in the same amount of time to be ready for that race yet seldom step up to the podium.   Are they still racing?  What do those that win think of those that don’t – especially those that bring up rear.  Someone has to take that coveted DFL spot.  Well, I’d say while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, racing is in the spirit of the rider.  

There’s a huge population of mountain bike cyclists out there that win a lot and are really, really good; but, many of them are reaching that point that they may not step up to the podium any longer.  They are in their forties.  And the aging process simply won’t allow them to win forever (so the scientists say).  Crossing over that magic line might be painful, yet they will continue to climb on their bike and ride for hours.   They will put in as many hours as the pros, but might finish a bit later than them.  So that begs the question, are they still “racing” if their genes and age won’t allow them to go any faster.   The answer may be easy for a select few of dedicated, professional riders who can’t bear the thought of not winning.   I overheard an individual saying one time “if you’re not really racing, what’s the point” (of being in a race).    The point is many cyclists fall into the I-love-to-ride-my-bike category and might care a tiny bit about NOT getting that DFL spot, but really care only about finishing the event.   They might enter races because they enjoy the challenge of training and preparing themselves physically to endure the event.   Fitness gurus say to reach beyond your limits – maybe the non-winners are doing just that -- entering a "race" that goes beyond what they achieved in the past.  Maybe the training benefits of good health and fitness (and longer life) inspires them.  Maybe the energy of race day with all the mountain biking camaraderie that comes with it and stepping up to the start line inspires them.  Maybe they are riding for a cause – a loved one with a disease that keeps them from being active.  Maybe they just want to get out of the house and enjoy nature.  Whatever the reason, ultimately, they love to ride.  So the next time that person steps up to the start line to “race,” and comes across the finish line long after the winners, yes sir, in their hearts they were racing.  They just might define it a bit differently than some.


Friday, February 13, 2015

"Mastering" Training for a Mountain Hundred Miler

Just when you think you have the training dialed in and the plan is in place for the next 5 months, along comes a couple of coaches who say that master athletes (age 40 and over, some say age 50 and over), need to approach things a bit differently – more recovery.

Music to my ears.

Most coaches follow a periodization training concept -- you do base miles for a period of weeks/months (usually over winter), build for a couple blocks of several more weeks, then get ready to race with race prep and tapering.   All of these "blocks" are typically three weeks of training at a certain intensity or specificity, then a week of rest including easy, active recovery and reduced training hours.   Lynda Wallenfals of LW Coaching, throws a twist into those blocks for Masters athletes.  Her philosophy is that aging athletes need more recovery time.  So she uses a three week training block: two weeks of training followed by a week of recovery.   Lynda also emphasizes the need for strength training, technical ride skills and high intensity workouts.   From the LW Coaching website:  Aging is linked with loss of bone and muscle mass in sedentary adults over the age of 35 years but not in active athletes. Use it or lose it. Increasing muscular strength increases resilience to injury, contributes to consistency and keeps you in the game as you age. 
Joel Friel - a well-known coach from way back when - just published a book Fast After 50 that gets into the nitty-gritty of approaching training to ward off the effects of age.  He writes a nice description of the book in his blog here.  He too talks about strength training and more recovery along with higher intensity workouts.   But we can't forget the every body is different rule.  What works for one may not work for another.  Nutrition plays a big role in recovery also.  Do you do a recovery drink after a workout?  Are you eating lots of fruits, vegetables, lean protein?  Are you getting enough protein.  It's such a science to dial in the proper nutrition.  So we need to try what might be best for our body.
Needless to say, my training plan got an overhaul.   I won't shy away from one week less of training.  Two weeks on with a week off will work out just fine.  This aging thing isn't so bad after all. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Amish Side of Mountain Biking

Use it Up
Wear it Out
Make Do,
Or Do Without

Words to live by when you retire prior to retirement age.  I caught myself dipping a bike tube into a sink of water looking for the leak with full intentions of actually patching the hole.  When I couldn’t figure out how to use the patch kit I found in the drawer (no instructions… imagine that!) and hubby was more interested in baking a loaf of bread, I ended up ditching the tube like the majority of folks.  Then I realized, most folks don’t even use tubes these days.  Along with the 29er movement in the mountain bike world came tubeless tires.  Most bikes on the trails are the latest and greatest size with Stans No Tubes sloshing in the tires.  So where do all the 26 inch bikes and tubes go?  To folks that swear by using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without.   My little bike will have to do for now and I was grateful my friends threw their 26 inch bike trash my way when they were cleaning out.  My 9 year old Specialized Epic came with tubeless rims and tires.  It was the latest and greatest on the scene at that time and they served me well.  The tires on the bike now are going bald.  I have Stans No Tubes for in the tires and I have valve stems, but no tires.  A new set of tubeless 26 inch mountain bike tires will cost me about $100 (my preference is Continental Mountain Kings).  Enter my friends trash – a set of brand new 26 inch tires – but not tubeless.  The brand doesn't seem to matter much when you aren't paying for them.  Hmm, I have free 26 inch tires and a stash of 26 inch tubes.  So I could set my bike up in new tires for nothing.  Yes, I’m going to make do with what I have and put tubes on tubeless rims on a 26 inch bike and race with the big guys.   Maybe I should break out the straw hat and suspenders for the ride too.   Or better yet, hook my bike up to the team and let them pull me over the trails. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

So How Do You Train for 100 Mountain Miles?

Bicycling Magazine's Selene Yeager recently posted an article, Cycling Tips: Train Your Brain that mentioned a little about the physical aspect of preparing for a race and a LOT about the mental fitness needed to finish.  That mental preparedness goes into the physical training too for any event you are training for.  From the very beginning of my active lifestyle, if I "thought" I could, I did. I couldn't swim, yet I wrapped my brain around learning to swim at age 42 and landed myself in the pacific ocean at the world Xterra competition.  I "thought" I could finish 7 days straight of mountain biking, riding over 5 hours each day at the age of 50 and low and behold, I did.  I thought I could stand in whitewater rapids on a paddleboard and I do.  But for every one of these adventures, the attitude is what makes it happen.  And that's what it takes to start the training process for 100 mountain miles.  I think I can, I think I can.  It sure helps to have a solid training plan either by hiring a coach to help you out, or purchasing one of the many canned plans on-line such as former professional mountain biker, Chris Eatough's plans which are specific to many mountain biking ultra-endurance races.  There's a method to the madness of training and it's not just about riding a lot.  Easy days mixed with harder days, endurance and specificity (climbing!) weeks building upon each other then ending with a rest week, and monitoring your heart rate during training sessions are all key elements of a good training plan. Then we get back to the head games.  There are tons of days that you won't "feel" like riding and if you'd let that attitude take over, you'll never cross the finish line. The exception is actually being ill or overtrained -- then you listen to your body and stay in bed.  But if your health is good, just tell yourself to do it.  It will be cold, it will be raining or snowing, and it will be hot and humid.  Your brain will play games with you.  You simply have to train your brain .... be positive and focused on the end results.   CBS News correspondent Anderson Cooper did a story in December on Mindfulness which basically is being the present moment.  That's the kind of focus we are talking about in training your brain to focus on the task at hand and to be ready for that 100 miles in July.  It's 12 degrees outside and the indoor cycling trainer is the only way you'll get in that 3 hour ride on the training plan.  Your heart may say stay in the bed but the head says grab the best movie or pedal-pushing music you can find and get in that saddle.  That's training your brain.  While in the saddle, be in the moment watching Will Smith and spinning those legs at exactly 135 beats per minute and you'll get that job done.  The brain said you can, and you will.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hello 2015 - A New Year, A New Adventure

My last post was almost two years ago.  Ever since Facebook came on the scene, blogging seemed passé and time-consuming.  Looking back over the years of blogging, there's a bunch of informative posts, so why stop?  So here we are again.   A new year and a new post.  Last year was huge in my adventure world:  I achieved a certification to teach whitewater standup paddling.  Only a handful of girls nationwide hold that honor.  I'm grateful and humbled to be one of the few.   As part of the Canoe Club of Greater Harrisburg, classes are held in June and July of each year for those learning to stand for the first time, or those that want adventure and seek standing on whitewater.  More info later on the CCGH once schedules are set.

Each year I set an "out-there" goal --  something that seems a little more than I can handle so that I focus and work harder.   Even Tony Horton of P-90X fame talks about sign-up for something big... something out of your normal realm.  So this year my plan is something that's been on my bucket list now for almost 10 years:  the Wilderness 101.  It's a 100 mile mountain bike race in Central Pennsylvania, near State College.  Lots of mountains and trails to climb and ride totaling about 10,000 feet of climbing.  I'm super-excited to work toward this race in July.  Training has already begun.  More to come on that also.

Just wanted to welcome you back!