Thursday, May 24, 2012

Syllamos Revenge 125K

On May 17th after months of training, Ron and I packed the car and headed south for our first ever NUE race, the Syllamos Revenge 125K. The race was said to be mostly single track and very technical. Perfect, coming from PA, we love the rocks. After 19 hours on the road, we pulled into Mountain View, Arkansas, checked into a cozy B&B, registered and headed off to check out a section of the race trails. We pre-rode one of the most technical sections that afternoon, and we found the trails to be flowy and enjoyable but definitely technical as described. I knew we were in for a great day ahead.

Before I knew it, the next morning had come, and I was standing on the start line bright and early in a valley of the Ozarks. The hours and months of training all seemed to lead up to this moment, and I was ready to put it all to the test. In an instant, we shot off the line and up the mile climb into the single track. My goals for the day continued to be in the forefront of my thoughts as I started the race and as the hours ticked on that day. I had hoped to ride a steady, consistent pace, maintain the right caloric intake and simply have fun as I was learning what the NUE was all about. The day was sunny and very hot, but with the right amount of fluids, the heat did not seem to be an issue as it sometimes is.

The time passed quickly that morning, and I found a rhythm that worked well through the technical sections, the climbs and the descents. I had conversations with other racers and if my attention started to wander, I quickly reminded myself of my goals for the day. I enjoyed the beauty of the Ozarks and worked toward each aid station, toward the next set of cold bottles. That little detail meant so much during this first, hot race of the season.

Finally, after 8 hours, my time at Syllamos was coming to an end. The course finished out on a rocky, flowy section of single track through a burnt pine forest. The sun beat down through those trees, and I was ready to cross that finish line. When I hit the last downhill, I couldn't have been happier, and I crossed the line to the tune of Ron's whistles and cheers. I heard the announcer from Cycling News state my name and place, 4th in the women's open! Elated, I got off my bike, and hugged Ron who had also had an amazing first endurance race that day with a 2nd place finish in his SS class and 5th overall. It was certainly a hard effort, a memorable race, and a trip that will not soon be forgotten.

Thanks to teammate Mark Drogalis for the photo!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On The Rocks

Many years ago, I threw a leg over my first hand-me-down mountain bike (26" steel KHS) and hit the trails in French Creek State Park with my then boyfriend, now husband, Ron. French Creek is a lush forest with solid climbs and descents, well known for its relentless, yet fun rocky trails. While it certainly wasn't the easiest of places to learn to ride cross country, it did quickly teach me to let go of my fear and build on my technical ability. We frequented French Creek through the snowy winters and hot summers, and I learned to love the challenge those trails brought with each ride. My memories are fond of the early days when I learned to weave my way through those tricky rocks.

Each year when the French Creek race comes up in the Mid-Atlantic Super Series, I look forward to it and know it will be a challenge. This year, the race was put on by Trestle Bridge Racing and the course, in my opinion, has never been so fun since I've raced. I lined up on Saturday afternoon amongst many other women including 3 of my new CF teammates, and the four of us charged into the woods leading the race. Feeling much better than I felt the week before at the Iron Hill Challenge, I tried to maintain a solid, steady pace while riding on the caboose of what many called our CF train that day. By the second lap I was sitting in 3rd and feeling great while exchanging encouraging words with my fellow teammate. Finally, by the third lap I took 2nd, though it was short lived as I jammed my crank into an unseen rock and shot off my bike like Superman. This seems to my preferred method of falling off the bike these days. I quickly gathered myself, picked up my bike and noticed my handlebar was crooked and right brake lever was twisted, though I figured with just about 7 miles left, I'd focus on my wheel rather than the bar & brakes and ride it out. Back in 3rd I finished out the race and was greeted with cheers and hugs from fellow teammates and racers. The day couldn't have been more beautiful, and I went home that evening with another great memory of French Creek and riding "On the Rocks".

Finishing up -
Great day for the ladies of CF. -