Tuesday, November 23, 2010

To the Caribbean Ocean- Day 4

On the last day of La Ruta, we actually got to "sleep in" since the stage didn't start until 7 am. We still had to be up for a 5 am breakfast of rice, beans, and scrambled eggs. Yum yum, just what I crave in the morning!! It was absolutely pouring when we were standing on the starting line, and the controlled start was pretty sketchy on the wet pavement. We still had some pretty steep dirt-road climbing for about 40 km, before the final downhill and flat 80 km section.

The standings were pretty much set for the general classification, unless there was a major mechanical. There was about 30 minutes between me and Angela, and another 30 to Rebecca, but you never know what can happen, so I still worked hard to make sure I stayed with Angela on all the climbs. She is a really strong rider, and does most of her climbing out of the saddle. We crested the final climb together and had 2 other guys with us, one was her teammate....

On the downhill it was again pouring rain, and it was hard to see with and without glasses on. from all the dirty water splashing. The rest of the race was pretty slow and easy for the most part. I clearly had no chance of breaking away from Angela and her teammate, so we pretty much rode the rest of the stage together. At one point I left them behind on the railroad tracks, but as soon as we hit a dirt road they worked hard to catch up again. It was quite annoying that they had 3 support vehicles next to them, handing her buddy drinks and food... She couldn't take any, but apparently he didn't care that he was breaking the rules. It was kind of funny when one of their cars got stuck in one of the rocky rivers :-)

We finished off the last hour riding on a dirt-road paralleling the Caribbean ocean. After the hurricane some of the puddles were so deep the water covered my whole tire. Luckily I only fell over once!!

Rebecca and me with our cool hand carved trophies and La Ruta coffee

It was great finishing on the beach. After parking my bike, I went straight in to the ocean!!

I think the La Ruta organization did a great job this year trying to make sure it is a fair race for ALL riders. I am sure by reinforcing the rules, this race will continue to attract high-level international riders as well as Costa Ricans.

Lico (3), Ben (winner), Alex (2), Rebecca, and me.

Cracking Down on Outside Support

The start of Day 3 was very interesting. After the presentation of the leaders' jerseys, Pipa announced that one of the top riders would be disqualified from the race because of receiving outside support. According to the rules, riders are not allowed support except for at some of the checkpoints. No more handing out drinks or food through car windows or even having a support vehicle following racers... I think this is a fair rule. Part of mountain bike racing is taking care of yourself as well as of your bike. It makes a huge difference if someone is there to hand you food and drink or clothing the whole day, you don't have to think at all... This has been a big problem in the past, and it seems part of the culture of La Ruta, but in order to make it fair to international racers, the organizers are finally cracking down on racers breaking the rules!!

The announcement started a big uproar, and some of the riders in the front, including Angela Parra (whose husband was getting DQed) turned their bikes sideways, blocking all racers from crossing the start line. SO LAME!!! After a couple of minutes, Ben Sontag, in his leader jersey, dropped his bike and grabbed the microphone. He was clearly angry and stated that he had come La Ruta to race a fair race and that people should follow the rules and not cheat. AWESOME!!! So, the race was on again!!!

I had forgotten that Day 3 also has some pretty steep hills. I felt pretty good going up the volcano and reached the top (almost 10,000 feet) in just over 3 hrs. It was misty and windy at the top, but pretty mild compared to previous years! I found out I was about 4 minutes behind Angela at the top. I stopped briefly at the checkpoint to fill up some water and grab a banana, I knew there was still more climbing to come.

The down-hill of the volcano was in surprisingly good shape. The weather had been dry the past few days, which made the rocky sections easier to ride. This day finishes with a really long paved descent which is super fun. You still have to be somewhat careful, because there are cars, dogs, and people all over the roads. I was very close to running over a chicken coming around a turn at one point.

Interviewed by Wendi Johnson at the finish of Day 3

I finished less than 1.5 minutes behind Angela Parra today, so I was really happy with my effort. Rebecca was in 3nd again.

Day 2- La Ruta

Had a really good race on day 2 of La Ruta. Today's stage was 47 miles with about 10,000 feet of climbing. A Costa Rican won the men's category followed by Ben Sonntag and Alex Grant riding for Cannondale. In the Women's category, Angela Parra from Colombian won again, but today I was only 3.5 minutes behind. Rebecca Rusch was in 3rd, 10 min behind me.

Today's stage involved some extremely steep climbing, over 30% grade for 2 miles straight. Part of the steep climbing was on concrete with big rocks thrown in so the cars can have some traction. It is super bumpy and hard to climb, even in your granny gear. The course was changed within the last few days, because the hurricane Tomas has damaged the original course and it was unridable because of slides. It was a little tough with the course change, because we had no map, so no real idea of where the checkpoints or climbs were, but that is part of La Ruta :-)

Checkpoint officials

Eric is in charge of managing a check point each day with the help of 3 volunteers. 2 of his guys attend the University that sponsors La Ruta. It seems like a very challenging but fun job. They have to shop for the CP food the morning of the race (which starts at 6) and drive out without a map to find where their checkpoint is supposed to be set up. There seem to be a lot of locals around, and little kids shyly come up and ask if they can have a piece of fruit or a PB and J sandwich. When they are finished with the checkpoint, the locals are so thankful to get the left-over bananas and peanuts, nothing goes to waste here....

La Ruta de los Conquistadores 2010

Some of the Locals Asking for a Treat at Eric's Checkpoint
Day 1
Had a great (but very hard) time during Day 1 of La Ruta today. There is a strong women's field this year and the organizers are really trying to promote women's mountain biking, which is nice as women's sports in general receive very little attention in Costa Rica.
This stage is typically the longest, 69 miles with about 13,000 feet of elevation gain. After a bit of dirt road the race takes you through the Carrara, which is a jungle preserve. It is always very muddy, and this year was no exception. There is one section of about 12 km which is unridable for the most part. This year there were also many slides because of Hurricane Tomas. I was staying right behind Columbian Angela Parra, the winner of the Pan Am games as well as Costa Rica's Guanaride. Right before Checkpoint 2 Angela, myself, and 2 guys took a wrong turn where there was no marking. We just made a guess where the road split and we where wrong. After some hiking we noticed the other riders were going the other way and turned. It wasn't that far, but still annoying!! After CP 2 Angela disappeared in the distance. I was getting pretty tired and a little crampy so I settled in to my own pace.
Eric was managing the 3rd checkpoint so it was nice to get to see him while filling up my water. As all of my saltpills had turned in to powder, Eric poured a bunch of table salt in to my camelbak. Didn't taste great, but kept me from cramping the rest of the day!

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Some times it felt super hard, and other times I was feeling pretty good. Angela Parra put some serious time on me, 23 minutes to be exact. I finished in 2nd with Rebecca Rusch about 9 minutes behind me. I'm pretty happy with how the day went overall. My bike worked descent besides some minor shifting issues and a minimally functioning rear brake, but that is to be expected after the jungle!!!
There are some new rules for La Ruta this year which actually seem to be at least partially followed and enforced. No outside support besides at some of the checkpoints. Riders taking outside support on the course are supposed to be DQd.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tahoe Sierra 100 2010


Had a great time at Global Biorhythm Events' Tahoe Sierra 100 again!! I had been checking out the weather prior to the race, and was not especially happy with the cold temperatures in the areas around Soda Springs. Luckily, the forecast changed the day before we left, and it looked like it was going to be sunny and quite warm!!!
Eric and I stayed at the awesome Ice Lake Lodge which sits right on a beach at the Serene lakes. After going for a short spin, checking in at the race, and having dinner at the lodge, we borrowed one of the ancient VHS movies from the lodge and laid in bed and watched it. Perfect pre-race routine!!

5 am came way too fast. After eating some PB and jelly toast for breakfast we drove to the start of the race. There was ice on the wind-shield of my car but the temperature showed 39 degrees. It could be worse. Since the couple of miles of ski-trails were followed by an 8 mile descent, I opted for starting out in my jacket. The ski-trails spread most of the riders out quite a bit, which made descending the dusty fire road downhill much easier than last year. At the bottom of the hill, I dropped my jacket at the first checkpoint. I was never really cold, the temperature was definitely coming up as we dropped below 5000 feet.

I felt fairly strong and had a good ride along the Redstar Ridge. It is just technical and fun enough to keep you on your toes. I didn't need to stop to refill my camelbak until the "Dusty Corner" checkpoint at 51 miles. I also dumped my Ziploc baggie of Sustained Energy into my water bottle and grabbed some Endurolytes. I could feel some twitching in my calves, and wanted to make sure I didn't cramp. The 5 mile single track loop before getting back to Dusty Corner was really fun. At the checkpoint I was told I had about 15 minutes on the next woman, but it's hard to know how accurate that information is, so I kept going at a descent pace.

I kept riding consistently and passed several guys on the climbs. When I stopped at the second to last check point to refill my camelbak again, I was told I only had 5 or 6 guys in front of me. That was a bit of a surprise!! On the last climb, I could see 2 riders ahead of me and worked pretty hard to catch the first one. He was super encouraging and yelled at me to go for the next rider too. The next guy spotted me though, and he wasn't going to let me catch him. When we finally got to the ski-trails, I knew there was only 2 miles left. When I cam up on the really steep climb layered with about 4 inches of dust, I had to push my bike. The rider in front of me was nowhere to be seen. Did he ride the hill???

I was happy to finish in 9 hrs 24 minutes. I ended up first woman and got a 6th place overall!


Jim Northey put on a first class event as always! Jim is so positive and genuinely wants everyone to have a good time, and his great attitude spreads to all of the racers and volunteers.

Friday, August 20, 2010

HEY MOM, I'm on the BONE!!!

I think it is time to write about something other than, and maybe more exciting than, mountain bike riding and racing... Well, maybe not more exciting, but certainly DIFFERENT!

Today I actually got the chance to be a guest DJ on San Francisco rock station 107.7 the BONE with awesome REAL DJ Steven Seaweed. On Fridays he has a lunch-time show called "Hey Mom, I'm on the bone" and Steven invited me a while back to be on the show.

I had to pick 12 of my favorite songs, and then someone at the radio station edited my list down to 7.

La Ruta Lou on the BONE

During the hour I announced my songs:

22 Acacia Avenue with Iron Maiden
Beautiful Day with U2
Holy Diver with Dio
Whiskey in a Jar with Metallica
Jukebox Hero with Foreigner
Still of the Night with Whitesnake
We will Rock You with Queen
Jail break with AC/DC

In addition to reading a few adds and chit-chatting a bit, I also got to play the timeline game when listeners have to guess a specific year based on several clues and a song. We played Space Truckin' with Deep Purple.... The year was.........take a guess or go to www.1077thebone.com to find out!!!

Had a fabulous time with the Weedman, what a cool experience!!! Thanks Steven!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I got Creamed at the Puff

Not sure what I can add to my previous race reports from the Cascade Creampuff 100. It is still hard, long, hot, and has a lot of GREAT single track!! The course this year was a bit different with slightly more fire road as well as some really steep single track climbing.

I had my first flat ever at a Creampuff, which is not bad since I have been there 6 times now!! 600 miles with only 1 flat, you can't really complain about that!
Here are some other stats from my 6 years of Creampuff:

First year: 2004
Hottest year: 2008 with 103 degrees at the bridge
Missed year: 2007
Best overall place: 9th in 2008
Worst overall place 32nd in 2009
Longest time: 11:55 in 2008
Fastest time: 10:18 in 2010

After 100 miles and 15,500 feet of climbing I ended up in 3rd behind speedy Rebecca Rush and Sonya Looney

Here are some pics of me on the fun single track!

Monday, May 3, 2010

8 Hrs of Cool

Me, the Summit Chuters, and all the other racers had a great time at 8/24 Hrs of Cool last weekend. Eric was racing on an 8 hr corporate team (the famous Summit Chuters, sponsored by CB Hannegan's of Los Gatos). I was actually racing for Global Biorhythms, which is the organization putting on this race.

The course was almost the same as when I raced there in the fall (the Knickerbocker), but it was definitely less dusty, and there were several spots where the mud was quite deep. The solo racers took off at noon and the relay racers left 3 minutes behind. The weather was really nice, a bit warm, but there was a nice breeze. I felt really good from the start and my lap-times were 56-58 minutes. I was trying to hold off the Summit Chuters as long as possible. On my forth lap Mark Jeffrey came flying by me out of nowhere. I guess you don't get those rainbow stripes for nothing!!!

I was hoping to get 8 laps, but on lap 5 an 6 I sort of lost my motivation, and slowed down a little bit.... I decided 7 laps would be a good ride. I was also looking forward to hanging out at the pit area and especially to eating some of Alex's Ceviche. He had brought all the ingredients and was chopping everything up to make a huge bowl of shrimp ceviche to go with all the beer the guys had brought. Tough racing I have to say....

Happy to Cross the Finish-line

Dave Hokeness doing his pre-race ritual before taking off on one of his laps

When I finished my race shortly after 7 pm, the Summit Chuters were leading the corporate category by over 25 minutes. Even though they were having plenty of refreshments, they took their race very seriously as you can see from the picture of Dave on the trainer above.

After the night laps, the Summit Chuters had pulled ahead of the 2nd team. Apparently this lead made a certain rider feel like he didn't have to race his last lap but could continue drinking beer and bail out early to go to the Sharks' game instead. Alex took his role on the team very seriously and pushed hard to try to get 24 laps and missed it by only a couple of minutes. Good job to the Summit Chuters!!!

The Summit Chuters and me (replacing the missing Shark's fan)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Ultrasport..

Rob, the long-time checker in Rohn is awesome. He takes a week of his vacation time to volunteer and help out with the Alaska Ultrasport. To get to Rohn, he has to drive a snow mobile for a couple of days, over the same mountain pass we crossed. Then he gets to sleep in a tent and take care of a bunch of smelly racers who haven't showered for several days. Talk about dedication!!!! Rob has a lot of experience with winter racing, so he know exactly what we all need when we get to Rohn after a 20 hr push!!

Rob fed us more raviolis and after we got rehydrated, we put our sleeping bags on the thick layer of twigs covering the ground. It was nice to be only 3 racers in the tent, plenty of space. Just as I had fallen asleep with the assistance of an ambien, a group of 11 riders came in all at once. We were quickly reassigned new sleeping spots, outside in the snow. Luckily it was really warm!! I was so tired, I didn't really care how long I slept, and we didn't get out of our sleeping bags until 7:30 the next morning. Many other racers were getting ready to leave, but we didn't get on our bikes until 10am due to some minor mechanical issues with my bike, having to dig through our drops for more food and replacement batteries, and me just moving really slowly!

Once on the trail, I felt good. Time seemed to go by really fast. We had to cross some more open water, but in general the riding was fun, fast, and fairly easy. We were making pretty good time.

It was getting dark when we hit the Farewell burn with its infamous tussocks. Some of it was ridable, but sometimes it was faster to get off your bike and walk. All of the sudden we spotted a tail light in the dark and after about an hour we finally ran in to Brij (the super funny guy who moved from India to FAIRBANKS about 10 years ago). We chatted with him for a couple of minutes while taking a little time to eat and drink. As we were getting closer to Nikolai, I was calculating in my head that we could probably just keep riding all the way to McGrath without stopping in Nikolai at all. I can EASILY do 24 hrs, I kept thinking, I feel GREAT!!!! NOOOO problem!! Somehow the low bloodsugar crept up on me. I looked at my GPS and noticed I was going slower and slower. Better eat a few Swedish Fish to get some energy, I thought.... Unfortunately, no combination of food seemed to work. I was getting the tunnel vision, feeling weak and dizzy, wanting to lay down in the snow and pass out. My brain was working in slow motion, and so was my body. The last 3 hrs were torture (especially for Eric) as I was pedaling at a snail's pace, trying not to fall of my bike.

When we finally reached Nick and Olene's house in Nikolai at 2 am, a big group of riders, including speedy Tracey Petervary were taking off. I could barely make it in the door. I'm not quite sure how I got my clothes off, but somehow I made it to the table and had some of Olene's delicious moose-stew and bread.

After refueling, we planned on sleeping for 2 hrs and then taking off to see if we could possibly catch the group in front of us. We got to share one of the bedrooms with Dave Prahmann who was also looking a little rough. I used the little cot, and Eric laid down on the floor to try to get a little bit of rest. As exhausted as I was, sleeping wasn't easy, and after a couple of hours of tossing and turning I got out of bed to see how I felt. Hoping my stomach would cooperate, we decided it was time to get going. Chris Plesko who had been sleeping on the couch got up and was taking off with us. Dave got up too, but as we were leaving, he decided to rest a little bit longer. We were definitely not in a hurry to leave, it was too hot to put our all of our clothes on inside of the house. Chris, Eric, and I were joking around, talking about the race, and taking our time getting out the door.

Once outside, the chilly air seemed to wake me up. I felt ok for the first few hours, but then I started having problems with my blood sugar and stomach again. None of the muffins, cookies, danishes, or candy bars seemed to do the trick. I felt nauseous, and had trouble keeping food down. I tried the last of the mini sausages I had brought and that seemed to work a little bit better. Chris generously shared some peanut butter and cut-up summer sausage, and that was definitely better than all the sweet junk food.

Almost there...

It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, warm enough I even had to take my hat and gloves off. With about 10 miles to go we spotted 2 riders coming toward us on the river! It was Peter Basinger and Jeff Oatley coming to meet us!! Peter who had been in front the entire race, ended up winning over Jeff by only 33 minutes. We rode together, talking, but with 7 miles to go, I decided I was tired of eating cookie dough and was ready for some man-cakes, so I picked it up for a little bit. After a couple of miles I couldn't see the guys anymore, so I decided to take a nap on the side of the road. They finally showed up 20 minutes later, Eric had gotten a flat tire!!

Peter and Tracy's house was as great as I remembered. Peter was serving man-cakes, coffee, and omelets. The table was covered with home made cookies, brownies, cakes, and bread. We spent a 2 nights there and had a great time. Tracey (who finished about 6 hrs ahead of me AND set a new course record for the women), Jay, Phil, and walker Tom Jarding took off the next day to continue their trip to Nome. Tim Hewitt is also on his way on foot to Nome.

One of the highlights of the trip was when Dara and Kevin, next door neighbors, took us dog-mushing, and show machining. Dara and Kevin have 2 sled-dogs. Together with 2 of Peter's dogs as well as the indoor Chocolate Lab Leo we had a 5 dogs pulling the sled. It was so much fun!! Maybe next year I will just do the Iditarod sled-dog race instead..

Dara showing me the ropes in dog-mushing.

Thanks to everyone who made this incredible trip possible.
Bill and Kathi and all the Ultrasport volunteers for putting on a great event.
Rob and Neeraj at Physical Therapy of Los Gatos, for fixing me up before the race.
Matty (Eric's mom) for modifying our pogies to keep our hands warm.
Peter and Tracy for opening their home to all the racers and feeding all of us.
Dara and Kevin for showing us such a good time while in McGrath.
Peter, Rose, and Jon for your hospitality and help before and after the race.
Eric; Thanks for being the best "team-mate" anyone could ask for!!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ultrasport continued

Although it is only 35 miles between Winterlake lodge and Puntilla, it took us 15 hours. I didn't even recognize the trail from the year before, it was so torn up from the Irondog (snowmobile race) the previous week. We pretty much pushed our bikes the entire way. The happy steps were brutal going up. It was so steep and slippery, and really difficult getting the bike up without sliding back down.
We finally reached Puntilla around 6 pm. After a can of yummy ravioli, I claimed one of the two beds in the back of the little log cabin and slept for another 3 hours.

While sleeping, a whole bunch of other racers had arrived in Puntilla. When I got out of bed to wake Eric up, there were people everywhere. Someone was sleeping underneath a bed, while someone else was laying down on a make-shift bed out of chairs. I guess I was lucky to get a real bed where it was quite. Sean Grady was up at the same time as us, and took of just a little bit ahead of us. Getting ready seems like a long process. Retrieving your strewn out clothes, filling camelbaks and thermoses, getting dressed, and putting everything back on the bike while trying to eat and drink always takes longer than it should. At 1 am we were finally out the door and on our way to Rohn.

It was windy outside, and Sean's tire tracks had already been blown over by snow. We made our way across the lake, pushing our bikes, trying to follow the reflective markers along the "trail". After a while we could see 2 zig-zagging tire tracks and footprints ahead of us. After a couple of hours, we say 2 headlamps moving around. We kept hiking until we caught up with Sean and Phil Hofstetter who were searching for a hard packed trail and trail markers. It was really difficult trying to find a packed trail and we had to post-hole our way forward most of the time.

Sean Grady's picture of me and Eric pushing through some alder bushes in the dark

When we finally go to the turn-off for Rainy Pass (10 miles from Puntilla) it was already day-light. We stopped and had a little snack before continuing on.

Eric taking a little breather while eating a muffin.

Phil was having some problems with blisters and decided to stop to take care of his feet on the way up to Rainy Pass. It was a hard push, and I was working hard to follow in Eric and Sean's footsteps. At one point we got to a stream of open water. I was so glad we had brought the Neos. I was a little nervous they would leak, it would have probably been a good idea to try them out before the race...

Me carrying my heavy bike across open water on Rainy Pass.

Bike-pushing toward the summit.

I think it took us about 12 or 13 hours to reach the summit. The going down was only slightly easier than up, as we still had to push through alder bushes, do some trail finding, and cross water here and there. At one point we heard the loud sound of avalanches, luckily they weren't near us. This is when my bonking began. I started having trouble eating, and my brain seemed really slow. Eric started asking me questions, and I just starred at him with a blank look on my face. I wasn't sure I could make it all the way to Rohn without bivying in the snow. When we finally reached the river, I was really hoping it was going to be ridable. We were all getting tired of pushing our bikes. We were able to pedal the last 5 miles to Rohn, which we reached 20 hrs after leaving Puntilla.
The Rohn Cabin

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alaska Ultrasport- 2010

Back in Alaska for the third time... Eric and I, along with everyone else involved in the Ultrasport, had been watching the weather along the Iditarod trail for weeks before the race started. We were all a bit nervous about the warm weather, causing overflow on the rivers, open water, and soft snow. Just the day before leaving for Anchorage our water-proof Neos overboots arrived in the mail.

Some of the food for our drops.

In Anchorage we stayed with Jon and Rose, friends of Peter Basinger. We spent the day before the race building up our bikes, going to the pre-race meeting, grocery store, and picking up some last minute things at REI. In the evening Jon made us the most amazing pre-race meal of grilled salmon (that they caught), mushroom (that he picked) pasta, stir-fried veggies, and a blueberry (that he also picked) crisp with ice cream. I spent hours dreaming about this meal on the trail.

Peter's mom drove us to Knik lake where we spent a couple of hours at the bar watching the US vs Canada olympic hockey game while waiting for the clock to strike 2. We missed the last part of the game, and had to wait until we got to Skwentna to find out that Canada had won in overtime.

The first leg of the race is 57 miles and ends at the Yentna roadhouse. It was slow slushy riding and it took us 10 hours to get there. We saw a big moose on the way there. Eric and I stayed only 10 minutes at Yentna, to fill up our camelbaks and check in. We arrived at Skwentna (mile 90) around 7 in the morning, after 17 hrs of riding. In Skwenta we got a 3 hr nap in a real bed while drying out our wet clothes. We had a great breakfast before taking off around 11 o'clock in the morning.

From Skwentna we had about 40 miles to get the Winterlake lodge on Fingerlake. We made good time, but I felt like I was working really hard to keep up with Eric's pace. Eric was riding his new Pugsley snowbike for the first time, while I still hadn't been ready to give up on my "skinny-tire" bike. It looked like he was riding so effortlessly in the soft snow, and I was going anaerobic just to keep moving forward. I was also getting a little self-conscious about all the comments I was getting: You are riding THAT bike???? I saw your tire-track and thought it was someone out for a little spin!!!!! You would be soo fast on a snowbike!!!! :-)

We arrived at the Winterlake lodge sometime close to midnight. After a yummy chicken/rice/black bean burrito we slept for another 3 or so hours in the walled tent. Thanks to ambien, I could sleep anywhere, anytime!! In "the morning" we replenished our food and batteries with stuff from our drop. There was no need to bring more hand or toe-warmers, as it was so warm I hadn't had to use one yet. After a little oatmeal and coffee, we took off around 3:45.

More to come......